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FIA post-qualifying press conference - USA 27 Sep 2003

(L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren and Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota in the post qualifying press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, United States Grand Prix, Indianapolis, USA, 27 September 2003

1. Kimi RAIKKONEN (McLAREN), 1m11.670s
2. Rubens BARRICHELLO (FERRARI), 1m11.794s (+ 0.124s)
3. Olivier PANIS (TOYOTA), 1m11.920s (+ 0.250s)

Published with permission from the Federation Internationale de l' Automobile.


Q: Kimi, that almost came from nowhere. You seemed to have a very quiet, disciplined run into this qualifying session. Did it feel like a pole lap?
It doesn't matter how it feels as long as it's on the first row in first place. No, we haven't had much running this weekend. There has been bad weather and we only had half an hour yesterday and then one session today. I wasn't very happy with the car at all yesterday and today, but we just got it right for qualifying and had a normal good lap and it was enough.

Q: You're in championship contention, your two main rivals are behind you, talk us through your feelings ahead of the race tomorrow?
Of course, it's a much better position now than perhaps the last race. But the race is long and I still think we have a good strategy for the race and I'm pretty sure we should have a strong race and we will see what happens tomorrow.

Q: Are you approaching this as just another race weekend?
Yeah, pretty much, because we don't have much to lose, but I think we have more to win than lose. We just need to do the best we can and hopefully it's enough to win the race.

Q: Rubens, problems with Michael today, but you're on the front row for the sixth time this year.
Yeah, I was actually hoping for pole. I think the car is good and looked good for the whole time, the whole weekend. On the warm-up, it felt a little bit different due to the wind, but I think everyone felt the same. The times were not as competitive as they were this morning. But, having said that, it was still a good lap. It was a little bit of a compromise on the set-up because in the warm-up the car was really lose everywhere, but the compromise paid off a little bit. The car didn't feel as this morning, but it was still good.

Q: In the context of the championship, you find yourself in a very interesting position now.
I love the challenges, you know. I think they all come to me in a way. It's such a good championship because you would see after the last race that the two main contenders were Montoya and Schumacher and then all of a sudden you see Kimi on pole and the other two guys behind. It is quite open and it's going to be very funny tomorrow.

Q: So what role are you going to play?
Hopefully to win the race, I think that's the first plan right now.

Q: Olivier, I think it's your best dry weather qualifying performance, a great result for Toyota. Did you feel it was going to happen, coming into this race?
Olivier PANIS:
Well, I think to be honest that during the whole weekend we have been quite competitive. When I started yesterday morning I was already in the top five and I felt really good with the car. It's been a really tough season for us, but I think we've worked hard every Grand Prix. I mean we've improved the car step-by-step and in the end we look really competitive. Sure, to be here I'm quite happy today because it's a long since I was here and I hope we continue like this.

Q: And you've got championship contenders around you obviously.
But this doesn't make any sense for me. I don't play anything on the championship. I need to do my best for Toyota and sure I will try to do it tomorrow because we are not too far from BAR and Jaguar to fight for fifth place in the championship which is quite important for us. But for me, definitely tomorrow I will have a different race, but I want to be good.


Q: Kimi, did you think you could be on pole here?
We knew that the car should be better here than it was in the last race but this whole weekend has been quite difficult, not only for us but for all the teams also, because the weather hasn't been the best and we only got one hour maximum - not even that - dry running. And yesterday and this morning I wasn't very happy with the car but then we seem to have found our way after the warm-up, just some small changes on the car and we were hoping that the car would be better in qualifying. But I think the circuit also improved a lot. So it was a good lap and I'm very happy with it.

Q: Now you can see where your championships rivals are, are you slightly readjusting your sights on the championship?
No. I haven't even been thinking that we are not in the championship fight any more, because as long as there is even a small chance, and right now it looks better than it did before qualifying, but there's a still a long race to go tomorrow and we just need to do our best and hopefully win the race.

Q: Going back to your quick lap, you were actually beaten by three other drivers in the first sector; did you feel that was your weakest sector?
I don't think it matters as long as you're quickest in the end. I took it quite easily in one of the corners, because in the morning I got the feeling that it was quite slippery and maybe we lost a little bit of time there.

Q: Rubens, to what extent do you feel you lost running time and did that have an effect on the team?
No, I think the weather played a role a little bit and it was quite windy out there. I don't know to what extent it affected the other cars but it did affect us a little. I think everyone, to be honest, because the times were not as competitive as this morning. I had to gamble a little on set up. I was happy with my set up this morning, but had to gamble a little bit because if it is windy like this tomorrow it might have an impact on the tyres that I wanted. I didn't have the quickest car in terms of performance, but I hope it will be a good one in terms of tomorrow's race. Having said that, I am still very happy with the lap.

Q: How much did you change the car after the warm-up and after Michael's run?
After Michael's run, not much. There was only five to ten minutes and there's not much time to change things. I only changed the tyres from the warm-up.

Q: When you look at the grid and the championship, how do you see it?
I am just sorry I am not in the battle because it is quite interesting and as I said it is very much alive and if you look at from one side it is quite fantastic to have the public as they are here they are like Brazil and Monza and they shout and they sing and it will be a good race and hopefully a clean one for everyone involved in the championship. I am not treating them as an outsider, I am still there and I have some points, obviously. To do the mathematics, I cannot beat the first place and anything can happen and I am doing my best to win the race.

Q: Olivier, congratulations. You must be very happy?
Yes, definitely, I am happy for the team and for myself. I think we started the weekend very competitively and we were in top three in the morning. In qualifying, I was unlucky and it started raining and that didn't help. This morning I was competitive again and we tried to improve the car throughout the day. In the warm-up lap, it felt good, but the traction was not right and the grip level was low. We changed some small things and in qualifying I did a very good lap. We need to find a compromise, but I would say we have a good car for tomorrow.

Q: One of your team said at Monza that you weren't good enough. How much has changed since Monza?
Not much. We have tested a lot between the two Grands Prix to test some different aero kits and then we found one that was really quite good and we used it and it looked like it is okay.


Q: Kimi how much does it add to your advantage that Michael Schumacher is starting significantly behind you and will have to work his way for a while?
Of course, it will help, but you never know what will happen in the race. It is safer to start from the first two rows in the race than further behind where you can more easily have an accident or things can wrong. But it is a long race and you don't know what the other teams are doing with the pit stops and so we have to wait and see. But it looks quite good now.

Q: Kimi how does this pole feel in comparison to your first at the Nürburbring?
It is always important to get pole position, but maybe it was more exciting there because it was my first one but this has come at a good time now and it is the best place to start and it is the crucial time in the championship. It was one of our best qualifying sessions.

Q: Olivier, do you think you will use the same strategy as the other teams or a different one?
Well, I think the strategy is quite clear. I think we are in good shape, but we don't know what everyone else is doing. I have used a different strategy for some Grands Prix before and it is working and I think it is working quite well so I feel quite confident for tomorrow.

Q: Rubens, you and Michael have always done well here - what is it about this course?
Well, I am not really sure. It always seems the Ferrari is a good car here, but I think that when you like a place you tend to do quite well and I like the place.

Q: Kimi, considering there is quite a big difference in the top speeds with McLaren and Ferrari, do you think your top speed will be enough to keep them behind on the straights?
I don't know. We will see tomorrow.

Q: Can you alter the rear wing?
I think it is only the front wing we are allowed to adjust anymore. It is always a compromise with the long straight and the twisty infield. We will see tomorrow.

Q: Olivier, when was last time you were on the second row and do you think you have a package to win?
Well, the last time for me was 1997 in Argentina you know, a long time ago. I am getting old now. But I am quite happy to be here today. I need to be objective. We have improved a lot during the season, but I don't think we have the car to win yet unless something happens on the first corner. My concern for this race is to finish and score points and to beat Jaguar and BAR in the championship. For us, that is a priority. Next time, we will talk more about winning the race.

Q: Rubens, how difficult is the first turn here and how does it compare to other Formula One venues?
If you compare it to Monza, for example, this is like a motorway and there is space to go everywhere. Obviously, there are other places with some escape roads, but here the thing is the tight turn. The way it is done, you can approach it from the inside. Or you can cut across it if you need to, hopefully if anyone has to go across it will not rain anymore because the grass today was quite wet. I would say anything can happen, but it is quite a safe one.

Q: Kimi, is this great for you?
It seems good, but this year many times what happens in qualifying doesn't say much in the race but I am pretty confident.

Q: Rubens did you watch Michael's lap and can you assess what happened to him in the first couple of turns?
I'm not really sure. I have not spoken to him or seen his data because obviously we have to wait for his car to come back. But it looked like he was quite loose as well as he went off but it didn't affect me in turns of set up and I think my car had a little more control.

Q: Are you surprised neither of the Williams cars made the podium?
Well you never know. This championship is so open. So many times it started and in Malaysia and you never thought Renault would be on pole and all of a sudden they were so to be very honest with you, I was expecting that Montoya and Ralf would be on quicker times, but having said that you never know if they had full tanks so I think it is quite open

Q: Olivier, after all the work that you have done what does this mean for you personally?
For me, it means a lot. I think I have worked really hard with the team this year and we have gone really far and the work we have done is huge, but the next step is more difficult to close the gap to the best teams. But I am quite happy because we have tried to improve at every Grand Prix and now at the end of the year we continue to improve and we are on the second row and I think that is really quite good for everyone in the Toyota team. And you know where the next Grand Prix is so we will give something very good for the fans in Japan for Toyota, and for me definitely. I am happy to be on second row and to fight with the best guys and have some fun.

Q: Kimi, how much do you have to be aware of where Juan is?
I will just try to do my own race and get away quick enough to hold them behind me and win the race. During the race, I am not looking at other people; I am just doing my own stuff.

Q: Do you think emotions were a factor today?
No, I just had a better car today.