The drivers on their afternoon at Spa-Francorchamps
True to its fickle reputation, the weather at Spa threw the proverbial spanner into the works for Saturday's all-important qualifying session in Belgium, as the drivers involved explained.
Jarno Trulli, Renault (1st, 1m 56.232s):
"This afternoon, we took a gamble and it paid off. We were watching the cars that went out before me in qualifying very closely to judge whether we could use the intermediate tyres or not. I thought it could work, particularly in the second and third sectors, so we took the risk, and the team did a great job to react so quickly. On the lap itself, everything went smoothly: the handling of the R24 was good, and I would even say I could have gone slightly quicker. It has been tough for me in recent races, so I hope that I will be able to turn this pole position into a strong result tomorrow."
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (2nd, 1m 56.304s):
The weather conditions meant the session was something of a lottery, as we had not expected that final splash of rain. I can be happy with being on the front row in second place given the conditions when I made my run. As for my lap, I struggled a bit at the top of the hill, going sideways into Turn 5. I think I lost the majority of the time at the last chicane as I did not have enough traction on the way out, but I have no complaints. We face a big challenge tomorrow as we know that the Renaults start very well, but we have also made some very good starts and so I think we can be competitive in the race.
Fernando Alonso, Renault (3rd, 1m 56.686s):
"I think that overall, I was lucky today: after I had done the first half of my timed lap, it started raining again, but fortunately it was not heavy and I didn't lose too much time. In fact, it was the first time this weekend that I had run on intermediate tyres, which meant I didn't have long to adapt to them, and it was quite difficult to find the limit. However, we had a very good day yesterday and I am optimistic that the car will be very quick in the dry."
David Coulthard, McLaren (4th, 1m 57.990s):
"I was a little bit worried at the start of my lap as it began to rain. However, the intermediates we chose to use shortly before my run gave us a good qualifying time, especially as this was my first lap on these tyres. The car has been set up for the race with dry weather in mind as is predicted, so we will have to wait and see tomorrow, but I feel we will have a strong race."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (5th, 1m 58.040s):
"Given that the rain spoiled our chances of a really high grid placing today, I think fifth is a very strong performance. But I feel unlucky that just before I went out we had to switch from wets to extreme wets as the rain increased. That cost us performance, for sure. In the dry yesterday we were very strong, however, so I am optimistic for the race as the forecast predicts a dry day tomorrow."
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (6th, 1m 58.175s):
Everything went quite well, except that there was a bit more rain when the last group of five cars went out. The last corner caught me out, even though I was feeling the tyres were losing a bit of their performance so I was being careful. I had oversteer and went into a slide, so I suppose to be in the top six having made a mistake is not too bad. A bit of a frustrating day, but Im still optimistic for tomorrow. I dont mind if it is wet or dry tomorrow, as the conditions are the same for everyone, although my car is set up more for the dry than for the wet as we are expecting drier conditions tomorrow.
Mark Webber, Jaguar (7th, 1m 58.729s):
Its been quite an usual day for us here at Spa as we entered qualifying having only completed twelve laps in this mornings practice sessions. The weather has not been good at all and this has really affected the amount of running that we have been able to do. Despite this the team has done an excellent job in preparing the car and as a result the R5 felt well-balanced going into qualifying this afternoon. It was still raining when I headed out and we took the decision to be on full-wets. The track can be tricky to master in these conditions but I am pleased with where we have ended up. 7th on the grid for tomorrows race is good news for us and of course now we are focusing on the race and our goal to finish in the points. All the cars are very reliable at the stage on the calendar and the fight for points is not easy. However, we have a good solid package in the R5 and we are well-prepared for tomorrow so I am looking forward to getting out there and racing.
Felipe Massa, Sauber (8th, 1m 59.008s):
"Between Juan Pablo Montoya and our runs the track got much wetter, so we were rather unlucky today. By the time I went out for my qualifying lap the track was completely wet and I got lots of wheelspin whenever I encountered any white lines. But I am quite happy in such extraordinary circumstances with eighth place, because I know that we have a good set-up, wet or dry, for the race tomorrow. It's good that both cars are comfortably in the top 10, and I'm really looking forward to scoring some points."
Olivier Panis, Toyota (9th, 1m 59.552s):
"It was a good qualifying session for us today. I did a very good lap running with full wet tyres and the team managed everything well in difficult conditions. We have opted to run a different tyre compound compared to other Michelin runners this weekend, which worked well in yesterday's dry practice sessions. To be ninth on the grid with the strategy we have opted for and the tyres we have selected, I am very confident that we can have a strong race tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (10th, 1m 59.635s):
"Unfortunately it started raining heavily during my run. I made a mistake in the last chicane, which cost me some time. However, from our performance yesterday in the dry I think we should be looking OK in the race when the weather hopefully will be dry again. The overall performance of my car has been good from the start of the weekend, so I am looking forward to tomorrow even though I am starting from tenth position."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (11th, 1m 59.681s):
Bad luck for me in todays qualifying. The track was starting to dry out and we decided to use intermediate tyres, like Trulli, Alonso and Coulthard who went out just before me. However, already on my out lap it started to rain quite hard, which made it very difficult to keep the car on the track and as a result I lost a lot of time. There was no grip at all! Its a shame because in the morning we looked quite competitive in the wet and in pre-qualifying I was the second fastest driver on Michelin tyres. Still, I think we have a very good race car for tomorrow, we have found a good compromise which will hopefully pay off.
Jenson Button, BAR (12th, 2m 00.237s):
"It's disappointing to be 12th on the grid as it has been a very long time since we have had a poor qualifying session. We made the wrong tyre choice due to the standing water that was on the track and this cost us in our performance today. However, the car is strong and we are confident for the race, so with the mixed grid I think we can all look forward to an interesting Belgian Grand Prix tomorrow."
Christian Klien, Jaguar (13th, 2m 01.246s):
I was hoping to get some more running completed this morning and I was certainly disappointed with only having the time to do six laps. The track conditions were really wet and very greasy out there and this made everyones job more difficult. The guys however have continued to work very hard on the car and they have done a really good job with the package. The car feels well balanced and very smooth on track so I am pleased with our progress. My first qualifying session this afternoon was good but going into the second session the rain started again when I headed out and I was probably pushing too hard as well. Although 13th on the grid is still a good points fighting place and given the complexity of this track I have no doubt that there will be attrition. I will be looking to make the most of any opportunity to make my way up the grid and I am certainly excited about the race.
Antonio Pizzonia, Williams (14th, 2m 01.447s):
My qualifying was disappointing, for sure. The lack of running this morning didnt help, and I even crashed in the last few minutes. The team did a really good job in putting the car back together in time so that I was able to qualify in my race car. Obviously Im disappointed, but
Im hoping to have a good race tomorrow. It is possible to overtake here, as its such a long circuit, so we will see what happens.
Takuma Sato, BAR (15th, 2m 01.813s):
"I'm disappointed with today's result. The rain stopped during the session and the lap and because we had extreme wet tyres on, they overheated quite quickly due to the conditions, so I had very poor grip by the end of the lap. The grid is quite mixed-up for the race tomorrow. We have good straight-line speed, so we have an opportunity to achieve a solid two-car points finish, continue to challenge Renault and maintain our third position in the Championship."
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (16th, 2m 02.645s):
Im not satisfied. Relatively speaking, the car looked really strong this morning and we were not too far off the top ten and even then I knew that there was still room to improve further. Then in pre-qualifying and especially in qualifying, I lost grip and had a very loose rear end. But that happens: obviously, its difficult for everyone to judge the conditions with so little track time in free practice. But still we have the race ahead of us and Im looking forward to that.
Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (17th, 2m 02.651s):
"This was a good qualifying session for me without any mistakes. It was a pity that I wasn't able to drive for many laps this morning, as we weren't able to find the perfect chassis set-up. The car felt a bit different in qualifying from the way it did this morning, and was not so easy to drive. If everything had been perfect, I think I could have qualified perhaps two positions farther up the grid. I have to say, though, the guys did a great job today, and I want to thank them for all their effort."
Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (18th, 2m 03.303s):
"I think it has been a good day. We ran well in the pre-qualifying session and, despite the wet weather, I felt very comfortable with the car. It was a shame in the qualifying run, though, that I couldn't equal, or improve on, my previous lap time. Unfortunately, I made a couple of mistakes in sectors two and three that cost me quite a bit of time. The car is good, though, and we hope tomorrow will be wet, as it will improve our chances of a good result."
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (19th, 2m 03.833s):
Im a little bit surprised because I dont know what changed between pre-qualifying and qualifying! Its so strange to lose 4 seconds from the first to the second session. The car was different in qualifying, it was much more slippery. I think there is something wrong, whether its the car or me I dont know but we need to understand what happened.
Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (20th, 2m 03.895s):
"My grid position was affected a lot by the mistake I made in the first qualifying session. There was not much grip on the track due to the large amount of rain that had fallen all morning. I ran over one of the white lines around the track, but it was very slippery and I was sent into the gravel. The team did an incredible job trying to repair the car for the second qualifying session, but some of the aero parts were damaged, which unbalanced the car a lot for my second run. I am very sorry for the team, but I hope our strategy will work to our advantage and enable me to work my way up through the field."