Who thought what of their afternoon at Magny-Cours...
Less than a second covered second to 12th place in qualifying for the 2004 French Grand Prix. But clear at the top was Renaults Fernando Alonso, scoring his first pole position of the season.
Fernando Alonso, Renault (1st, 1m 13.698s):
"It's nice to be here! The car has been quick all weekend, and pole position gives me a solid base for tomorrow's race. I did a very good lap: the car was under-steering a bit too much at low speed, but it was very stable in the high-speed corners. I am happy to be on pole, but the main job is still to come. But obviously, from the front row, I will be racing for the win."
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (2nd, 1m 13.971s):
Even with very little running yesterday we soon found a good base line set-up for the car this morning, so we will be in the fight tomorrow. I did not get pole for what could be a variety of factors: tyres, strategy or set-up for example, but I am on the front row at least. In qualifying I was just not quick enough in the third sector. I lost about a tenth at Turn 13 because I was pushing too hard but I lost the most time in the last two corners. Second place was not what I expected but the strategy will be very interesting tomorrow and it might well change over the 70 laps. Without the chance to do long runs on Friday, it will also be interesting to see how the tyres work over the distance. The field is much closer than in previous races, so now we must wait and see what happens.
David Coulthard, McLaren (3rd, 1m 13.987s):
"I am pleased with the result; it shows that we have made progress with the car and I am happy that the hard work of the whole team is leading us in the right direction. We still have to wait for the race tomorrow to see how we compare with the fuel strategies of the opposition, but we have improved significantly."
Jenson Button, BAR (4th, 1m 13.995s):
"It was a reasonably good lap but Im disappointed that we are outside the top three. I was struggling with oversteer prior to pre-qualifying so we made a change to the car. That didnt have the right effect during the first run so we changed again for qualifying and the balance was a lot better. The car has been working well here. Going into the race its not 100% perfect but we are consistent and the tyres are working well, so I think we will be strong here. It was interesting to see that McLaren were so quick and with Renault up there I think everyone can look forward to an interesting race. For our part, we need both cars to finish and to score some good points if we are to continue taking the fight to Renault."
Jarno Trulli, Renault (5th, 1m 14.070s):
"I made a few small mistakes on my lap, which is why I am fifth. I locked a wheel at turn 13, and the car had a bit too much oversteer at high speed. However, I am pretty pleased with how today went, and from fifth, I can fight for the podium with the strategy we have chosen."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (6th, 1m 14.172s):
It's a shame that I couldn't again set the fastest time in qualifying, after such a good pre-qualifying lap. We solved the problems I had in this morning's free practice, changing the car quite a bit, and we went out for qualifying with the right set-up. In qualifying I was quickest in the first two sectors, but then I made a mistake because I was pushing too hard and lost the rear of my car in the second high-speed chicane and I could only set the sixth time. The positive thing is that we showed today that the pace is there and this means we should have a strong race car. Anyway, we'll see tomorrow how we are going to perform compared with everybody else.
Takuma Sato, BAR (7th, 1m 14.240s):
"We are a little disappointed not to have been slightly further up the grid but the gap between pole and myself is only 0.5 seconds, so it was very close. I lost a bit of time on my lap but the team were able to record similar times with Jenson and myself. The conditions were very similar to this morning and we were generally strong with reasonable grip. I hope to have a strong race tomorrow; it should certainly be an exciting one!"
Marc Gene, Williams (8th, 1m 14.275s):
Having managed to do a good job at the right moment was the most important thing. In my pre-qualifying lap I found it difficult to get suddenly used to a different fuel load and I made a mistake, but my qualifying lap was ok, even if I know I could have been a couple of tenths quicker, maybe. Anyway, that was my best lap so far this weekend! If on Wednesday somebody had told me that I would have set this time, I would have signed-up for it, without doubt! Starting from the fourth row is still a good position and I my aim for the race tomorrow is to collect as many points as possible for the team.
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (9th, 1m 14.346s):
"Unfortunately I pushed too hard at the first corner and got a bit of understeer, which cost me some time. I tried hard to compensate for this on the rest of the lap, which resulted in a few minor mistakes costing me even more time. I think it's obvious to everybody that the car shows potential, and I feel very confident when driving it. I'm sure the car's competitiveness will become clear tomorrow."
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (10th, 1m 14.478s):
Everything was going well today until, after free practice, the team found a hydraulic problem on my car. The mechanics did a good job to sort out the problem, but it could not be done in time for pre-qualifying. It was hard, because it meant I was first out on track for qualifying. That meant compared to the other front runners I was penalised by the fact the grip level on the track improved every time a car went out. Im expecting a difficult race tomorrow, starting from the fifth row. But I hope I can still get a good result.
Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (11th, 1m 14.553s):
"This weekend, we have been more competitive than I think we expected to be, but I am certainly not going to complain about that! I am happy with my qualifying lap this afternoon. The balance of the car was good, although I had a bit of understeer on my first qualifying run, which we managed to dial out for the second session. I really don't think I could have found more time from the car and even if I was holding out for a top ten result, eleventh place with our strategy puts us in good shape to pick up some points in the race."
Mark Webber, Jaguar (12th, 1m 14.798s):
Today has gone well for us and we are pleased with our progress. We worked through a good testing programme this morning and managed to complete a good number of laps. We spent time working on our tyres as our decision deadline had been moved to midday today. The car felt well balanced going into qualifying and I certainly gave it my all. The grip was good out there and the pace was really encouraging. I was pushing very hard in the final sector and may have lost a tenth but generally I was pleased to have secured twelfth on the grid ahead of tomorrow's race. Given our strategy going into the race I am very much looking forward to getting out on track and having a good competitive race. The team as always has been delivering good results in the garage so I would like to reward them on the track.
Christian Klien, Jaguar (13th, 1m 15.065s):
I have really enjoyed today here in Magny-Cours. The track is good fun and the team has prepared my car very well for this circuit. The balance is working well for me and I am very motivated by the progress that we have been making on track. I completed a good practice session this morning in dry conditions and this allowed us to make our tyre choice early on. Going into qualifying I felt confident with the car and I really pushed the R5 through those corners. I am satisfied with my 13th position although I will be looking to make my way up the grid tomorrow as well as aim for the chequered flag.
Olivier Panis, Toyota (14th, 1m 15.130s):
"I am not particularly pleased with qualifying today. Throughout my lap, I had some bottoming and then I lost some grip in the last sector. In the end, I will start from 14th but we cannot change anything about it now. Instead, we just have to improve the car for tomorrow because it is a long and hard race here in Magny-Cours. I will continue to do my best in front of all the French spectators and hopefully our strategy will allow me to make up some ground."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (15th, 1m 16.177s):
"I'm still not sure what happened in the final corner this morning, when my front push rod broke. We are still analysing all the data. As a result I had to go to the T-car, which had most but not all of the latest aerodynamic package, so the grip was not quite as good. It was a difficult qualifying session for us, but we did a good job with the fuel load we were carrying."
Felipe Massa, Sauber (16th, 1m 16.200s):
"We knew that qualifying here was going to be tough for us, as our tyres are always better in the race. Our grid places look not so good, but we will be a lot stronger in the race. I'm pretty happy with what I did this afternoon, especially as the track was more slippery while I was out because of the stronger wind that pushed me a little wide in the quick chicane."
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (17th, 1m 16.807s):
"We made good improvements with the car after yesterday's difficulties in finding a proper balance due to the wet conditions. The car changed more than expected between qualifying sessions and although it was better, a few small adjustments we made didn't pay off as well as I thought. Still, I think the lap itself was good."
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (18th, 1m 17.642s):
"I'm disappointed about the mistake I made at the second corner but I still tried to push very hard for the rest of the lap to stay ahead of a couple of cars. I've gone well here in the past and I feel good about the circuit. Also, the car set-up has been improving quite consistently all weekend so we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (19th, 1m 17.913s):
"To be half-a-second off the time of the Jordan is not too bad, especially since I made a mistake in the first sector on my qualifying run. I was just trying a bit too hard and lost a couple of tenths of a second as a result. Otherwise, I was quite happy with my time. The guys did a good job sorting out a small electrical problem in the second session this morning. As a result of the time lost, though, it meant I didn't get to run with new tyres, so we went into qualifying a little bit blind, but it worked out okay in the end. I hope to have a positive race tomorrow and to take the chequered flag."
Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi 20th, 1m 18.247s):
"Generally, I'm quite happy with our performance so far this weekend, and we made some good progress this morning. As far as qualifying was concerned, my run started very similarly to my best this morning, but then I made a mistake in the third sector and lost quite a lot of time. We have a good, consistent car with nice balance, however, and I hope we can carry this progress on with a good performance in tomorrow's race. If it rains, it will not be
so bad for us, as the car performed well in the wet here on Friday. In fact, wet conditions might help us to have another race result like the one in Indianapolis, which would be great."