Day one in Belgium by the men in the driving seats
Less than a second split the top ten runners in a very competitive opening day of the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix. The drivers explain their progress at Spa-Francorchamps.
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (1st, 1m 44.701s):
I feel that it has gone well today, I wasnt completely happy with the car this morning, but the team worked on it, and it was much improved this afternoon. We have completed our tyre evaluation programme, and we are happy with how the tyres are working. However, it is always very difficult to judge how things will go for the rest of the weekend as a lot will depend on the weather, but we feel that the car will perform well on this track.
Jenson Button, BAR (2nd, 1m 45.015s):
"So far, so good. Having all three of our drivers in the top five today is a great start to the weekend. We started out this morning with very low grip, but we've found a way round that and things are going pretty well. It's a circuit I really enjoy and I had missed the challenge of Eau Rouge. Obviously the chicane at the end of the lap is a little different to what we're used to but it's still very exciting because you can outbreak yourself very easily, so you can lose a bit of time there. The car is working well here. Ferrari are looking very strong as usual but we have to compare ourselves to Renault, who are our immediate competitors in the Championship."
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (3rd, 1m 45.137s):
It was a productive Friday practice session and we seemed to have plenty of time to work through our planned programme without having to hurry. In fact, the red flag in this afternoons session actually gave us more time to work on our programme. I am quite happy with the balance of the car. Now we must finalise our decision regarding tyre choice and I am looking forward to the rest of the weekend with confidence.
Anthony Davidson, BAR (4th, 1m 45.437s):
"It's great to be back here at Spa - a circuit I know pretty well from my Formula Ford and Formula 3 days, as well as racing here for Minardi two years ago. I felt very happy with my performance this morning but my session was cut short by an oil leak, so I couldn't finalise my back to back tyre comparison and had to postpone it until the second session. The track was a bit damp to start with and full of marbles, but it cleared up pretty quickly. I personally don't think the changes to the Bus Stop have made a significant difference; it was always the trickiest part of the track to get 100% right and that's still the case. One thing that hasn't changed though is the weather! The rain held off today but I'm sure there will be plenty more to come throughout the rest of the weekend!"
Takuma Sato, BAR (5th, 1m 45.451s):
"It is great to be back in Spa again and to see all of our cars finishing in the top five today. We are very happy with the cars' performance as we were quick on the first timed laps, however we need to work on the consistency of the longer runs tomorrow as this is what counts in the race. Luckily we had dry weather today and we had no problems with the laps, so we are happy and looking forward to another strong programme tomorrow."
David Coulthard, McLaren (6th, 1m 45.507s):
Not the perfect start for the weekend for me, but the session went without incident for the team, and we managed to achieve all our evaluations. It is great to be back in Spa, and I am looking forward to challenging on the track again tomorrow.
Antonio Pizzonia, Williams (7th, 1m 45.559s):
We had fairly good sessions today and for sure its good it didnt rain so that we could complete our usual programme for a Friday, i.e. tyre evaluation and set-up preparation for the race. I drove an F1 car here for the first time today and it is quite different. With other cars, there were several corners where I would easily go flat out, but conditions are not the same now, since speed is much higher! Ill get used to it, I am sure, but I need some time. Also, going through Eau Rouge is good, its quite exciting, as I was expecting. I am sure everyone is taking it flat out. Anyway, theres more to come from the car and a lot more to come from me as well.
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (8th, 1m 45.625s):
It is good to be racing at Spa once again, as it is such a challenging track which is really enjoyable to drive. This circuit always requires a great deal of work to get the set-up compromise right to suit the mix of different types of corner. To be honest, I feel we still have some work to do in this respect and now we will be studying all the data, prior to making progress tomorrow morning.
Fernando Alonso, Renault (9th, 1m 45.658s):
"I have only raced here once before, three years ago, so my aims for today were simple: to select the tyres, and then to get used to the circuit again and build up my confidence. The tyre choice is quite straightforward and although I think we have some more performance to come from the car, overall we are quite quick. I am very confident that we can be competitive for the rest of the weekend."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (10th, 1m 45.678s):
Not a satisfying day for me because I am not still happy with the balance of my car. It definitely improved a lot from this morning, as the car became much more predictable to drive and more stable at the end of the first session. I hope to have some more dry running tomorrow which will help us to get the car right for qualifying.
Felipe Massa, Sauber (11th, 1m 45.960s):
"That was very good! I'm happy with the car's balance, especially at high speed when it really inspires a lot of confidence. We are strong here and things look good for the race. Like Giancarlo, I'm feeling very optimistic."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (12th, 1m 45.978s):
"I am quite happy with the way things went today. The balance is okay, and we only have to adjust the set-up a little bit more. We are going in the right direction. The car is very consistent on long runs and we are competitive, so I am happy and optimistic."
Mark Webber, Jaguar (13th, 1m 46.471s):
Its a fantastic track here and I am really pleased to be back and behind the wheel of the R5. The session this morning was excellent and I managed to do quite a lot of laps while working through a race set-up and tyre programme. With the threat of rain always an issue here it was important to get as much dry running as possible. As it happened we were actually fortunate and it remained dry all day giving us a really good amount of information on tyres and set-up. I find this track very challenging and I am already keen to get back out tomorrow, one thing is for sure, Sundays race is going to be interesting.
Olivier Panis, Toyota (14th, 1m 46.528s):
"I am pleased to back here in Spa-Francorchamps. To go through Eau Rouge flat out is always an emotional experience and the whole circuit is amazing. I think we did a good job today. We compared different tyre compounds and set-ups and we have a good idea what we need to run for Sunday's race. It appears as if the weather will be worse tomorrow, so we had a lot to fit into today's two sessions. We just need to keep working on things overnight. I am sorry for Ryan but he got out without any pain, so that is good news."
Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (15th, 1m 46.902s):
"It was quite a busy opening day in Spa-Francorchamps. The behaviour of the tyres at this track makes a big difference to the level of performance, so we decided to spend today's two practice sessions working on finding the best Michelin compound for the weekend. We were much more focused on race preparations today because the weather is very uncertain for tomorrow's sessions and we did not want to lose valuable time."
Jarno Trulli, Renault (16th, 1m 46.912s):
"I had a bad day to be honest. I struggled with the handling of the car - there was very little grip, and that makes the handling inconsistent, switching between oversteer and understeer. If it rains all day tomorrow, it will be tough to improve the car, but we will work hard on the data this evening to try and find what is causing the problem."
Bjorn Wirdheim, Jaguar (17th, 1m 47.265s):
The session went really well for us today and for me to have completed 43 laps in total is fantastic for the team going into tomorrow. The team now has a lot of data on dry running and this will help us in making our tyre choice ahead of qualifying. I love this track and it is really exciting to drive here. The F1 car feels amazing round here and I am pleased with our progress to date. I finished fourth in the time sheets this morning and the car was feeling really good, so I am very happy.
Christian Klien, Jaguar (18th, 1m 47.370s):
I had a good day today and I was really enjoying being out on track in the R5. The circuit is just amazing and the speed is exhilarating. My first session this morning was very productive as we worked through a full programme of tyre testing and race set-up. I managed a good number of laps in the morning session and then another eight this afternoon. We have some good data going into tomorrow and hopefully we will be able to make a good tyre choice.
Ryan Briscoe, Toyota (19th, 1m 47.634s):
(Briscoe was taken to hospital for precautionary checks following his crash, but is expected to return to the track on Saturday morning.)
Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (20th, 1m 48.687s):
"It was a good day for us and I'm happy with the time we set. Straightaway, I think we went in a good direction with the car set-up and the overall balance. We knew that our car could be relatively competitive on a fast circuit like this because the straight-line speed is good. Spa is my favourite track, so I'm very happy that I was able to be quick throughout the day."
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (21st, 1m 48.803s):
In terms of reliability it was a pretty trouble-free day apart from one little gearbox oil leak towards the end of the morning session which we solved for the afternoon. As for the car balance it wasnt really very good at the beginning of the day. We managed to improve it a lot but we are still quite far off having a good balance so hopefully I can do some good work with the engineers overnight as Im sure there is a lot of lap time to be gained.
Timo Glock, Jordan (22nd, 1m 48.817s):
It was not so easy for me to learn this circuit because although I drove here two years ago in touring cars, in Formula One theres a big difference so it took the first 10 laps or so before I was completely okay with it. The lack of grip on the track made it a little bit difficult as it was quite cold and we had a few problems getting the tyres and set-up just right. We changed a lot of things before the second practice which made the car much better. My timed laps at the end of the day were affected by traffic but overall Im happy because I did my work, made no mistakes, and hopefully have been good for the team in the task of finding the right tyre. The track at Spa is really good - I enjoy driving here! Much more than I thought I would in fact, I have to confess before I came here this weekend I expected it would be like other tracks, but when you actually drive a Formula One car here its totally different. What good fun, especially the fast corners like Eau Rouge and Blanchimont!
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (23rd, 1m 48.962s):
Its my first time here in F1 so today I had to find confidence with the track in this car. We also worked to find a good set-up for qualifying and the race and although we have worked hard, there is still more to find. Now we are thinking about tomorrow and which steps to take that may help us go a little bit quicker.
Bas Leinders, Minardi (24th, 1m 49.480s):
"First of all, I would like to thank Paul and the team for the special effort they have made to give me a good-performing car for Spa. I am pleased with the day's work in general, especially this morning. We encountered a problem this afternoon with tyre pressures, and although the situation improved in the end, we lost some set-up time as a result. Overall, though, it has definitely been a constructive day, and it was absolutely a great feeling to take Eau Rouge 'flat' in front of my home crowd."
Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (25th, 1m 49.742s):
"I'm not particularly happy with today's performance, which should have been much better. I particularly want to understand what happened in the final run this afternoon, which ought to have been a lot quicker. We'll have a long, hard look at the data and aim to improve tomorrow."