The verdict on the first ever qualifying session in China
Barrichello on taking pole, Schumacher on spinning it all away, and Felipe Massa on a superb fourth place for Sauber. What the men in the driving seats made of their afternoon in Shanghai.
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (1st, 1m 34.012s):
I thought pole was possible, but I did not know what Michael would do and expected it to be close. Then he spun and I was really shocked, because he does not do that very often. This is a phenomenal circuit with different lines through the corners which means it is easy to make mistakes. As for my lap, the balance of my car was good and worked well on new tyres. I was especially strong in the second section, as I have been all weekend and the first section was also good. As for the race, it will be a new experience for everyone. The track is getting more rubber down all the time and I think we will see an interesting race with some overtaking. We have a very powerful tyre that gives us a little bit of understeer and, when the track was green, also some graining on the fronts. But the graining time is getting shorter all the time so it will not be a problem tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (2nd, 1m 34.178s):
"The entire team is always pleased to be on the front row but at the first Formula One race in China it's particularly important for us all. The car has felt good right from the beginning of the weekend and I have really been able to push. The track conditions had changed a bit overnight, and we used the morning's two practice sessions to perfect the set-up and it worked. I made a small mistake on my qualifying lap coming onto the final straight, but I don't think it cost me enough time to have claimed pole position. The important thing is that our package and the Michelin tyres are working well, and as we have a good strategy for the race I'm sure we are in with a chance of winning."
Jenson Button, BAR (3rd, 1m 34.295s):
"I had a good lap so I m pleased to be starting the race from the second row of the grid. I didnt have a great run in pre-qualifying; I had a few problems with the car but it was much better for qualifying. I dont think we could have got much more out of the car and I was particularly pleased with the last sector. The car is working very well and I think we have a good set-up and strategy for tomorrow. The important thing is that we have qualified well ahead of the Renaults which was our immediate target, so that gives us a good advantage off the line. Generally I m looking forward to racing here for the first time tomorrow in what should be a very interesting Grand Prix."
Felipe Massa, Sauber (4th, 1m 34.759s):
"P4 is really good! For me it was almost a perfect qualifying session. The new Bridgestones worked so well straight away, and I was able to drive a lap without any graining. If it was this good for me in qualifying, I know that it can be stronger still when the track is in even better condition tomorrow, so I'm looking ahead to a competitive race. This is a fantastic result for the team, which just keeps growing and growing. It's a tribute to the work Bridgestone has done, but also to all the guys back in the wind tunnel in Hinwil and the crew here in China."
Ralf Schumacher, Williams (5th, 1m 34.891s):
I am positively surprised with my result because I didnt expect I would make it into fifth position. I found it quite difficult to set up the car this weekend and I am still having some difficulties in the first sector. I have ended up in a slightly better place than we were expecting to be, so I am quite happy. Anyway, its good to be back on track after such a long break and especially to be in reasonable physical shape too. I feel very well and I think we are going to have a good race tomorrow.
Fernando Alonso, Renault (6th, 1m 34.917s):
"I had quite a difficult day because when we began running this morning, the car's handling was very different to yesterday and much more nervous. We had to work on solving these problems, and that meant we did not really reach the car's full potential in qualifying. From my point of view, I did not make any mistakes on the lap - I was pushing right to the limit and it was definitely my best lap of the weekend in terms of getting everything right. I am much more confident for the race than I was before qualifying though: we have a good chance for tomorrow."
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (7th, 1m 34.951s):
"Unfortunately for me the track conditions changed slightly since this morning, so right from the beginning of the lap my tyres grained and the car began understeering quite strongly. I tried to be easy on it in the second sector, but the understeer was still there in the final corners. Nevertheless, seventh place is a good starting position and I am feeling confident of challenging for points tomorrow afternoon."
Olivier Panis, Toyota (8th, 1m 34.975s):
"I am quite happy to be eighth on the grid for tomorrow's race. With all three cars around the top ten in yesterday's free practice, we started the race weekend in a competitive way. The car has been looking consistent, although I had some trouble this morning with corner entry oversteer. We were unable to fix the problem immediately, but after the session I sat down with my engineers and checked the data. The changes we made to the car worked well for qualifying and I would like to say well done to everyone. Considering where we were this morning and where we are now, we have improved a lot. I am confident we can push hard in the race tomorrow."
Takuma Sato, BAR (9th, 1m 34.993s):
"It was a difficult day as we lost the whole of the second session yesterday, so I think that the team has done a really good job on all the requests for the set-up of the car. We have done the best that we could today and with a 10-position penalty we have had to work on our strategy to see how the best can be made of these difficult circumstances. Of course I am a little disappointed, but the circuit looks as though there will be some good overtaking opportunities, so overall I believe we should be in a strong position for the race tomorrow."
David Coulthard, McLaren (10th, 1m 35.029s):
"That was a tricky qualifying. I had oversteer during my pre-qualifying, and we made a few adjustments to the set-up of the car just before qualifying, but we couldn't improve the handling dramatically. I lost about four tenths in the middle sector especially in turns eight and nine. It will be a tough race tomorrow particularly from ninth position on the grid, but we will see what happens in the first corner."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (11th, 1m 35.245s):
I must admit I have struggled a lot to find the right set up on this track. My car is still quite hard to drive and somewhat unpredictable. My qualifying lap wasnt too bad but the handling of the car was not good enough and I could not set a good time. Ralf managed to do a better job with his car and his starting position shows this. Its a pity I could not get it right, because its real fun to drive on this track, even if it has a couple too many slow corners! Anyway, its going to be a long race tomorrow and well see what develops.
Mark Webber, Jaguar (12th, 1m 35.286s):
We enjoyed another productive couple of sessions this morning working on tyre preparation as well as qualifying and race set-up. The team has prepared well for this weekend and this is reflected in the mileage that we are covering. I managed to do 26 laps this morning and so felt comfortable ahead of qualifying. I am relatively pleased with my lap this afternoon although I lost the rear slightly in corner seven and just managed to grab it back for corner eight. It perhaps lost me two and a half tenths but despite this I am content with my grid position for tomorrows race. Looking ahead to the race we will be looking for a competitive day as we have a good strategy in place and a reliable package. This new circuit is fun to drive as well as both challenging and technical and given the complexity of the first corner I think the race is going to be very interesting.
Jacques Villeneuve, Renault (13th, 1m 35.384s):
"I am slightly disappointed with my position - although the gap to Fernando is not so big, I was really in the wrong part of the grid and the small time difference translated into a lot of positions between us. I wasn't completely happy with the lap in qualifying, and definitely lost several tenths in turn 13 before the main straight. But we know the car is better on used tyres - which means we will be stronger in the race than we were today."
Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (14th, 1m 35.410s):
"I do not think that final result does justice to our performance so far this weekend. The grip level was much lower in qualifying compared to this morning's practice sessions. I made a small mistake at the hairpin when I locked the front wheels, but I lost a lot of time in the final sector. I am not starting as high up the grid as I expected, but we have been quite competitive in the practice sessions, running regularly inside of the top ten, so I hope our race preparations will pay off. I have some work to do in the early stages of the race to make my way up through the field."
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (15th, 1m 36.507s):
The car is going quite well at this circuit, it seems to suit the track. I learned the circuit pretty well and the engineers did a good job yesterday setting up the car. It felt good this morning and Im quite happy with my lap - I didnt make any mistakes and the whole team did a good job. We had problems yesterday but we worked hard overnight and are in better shape now, with more than the usual number of cars behind us. I think the circuit is challenging and great fun, especially the first corner. Its outstanding.
Christian Klien, Jaguar (16th, 1m 36.535s):
I was very pleased with the performance of the car this morning and managed to work through my practice programme focusing on tyre preparation as well as some aero work. The R5 was well balanced going into qualifying and I was hoping to qualify slighter higher than my 15th position. I was struggling to make the most of the car and so was disappointed not to come away with a better lap. The track is still dusty and the corners, particularly the first is demanding on both driver and car. However, we are still looking good for tomorrow as the car is good over long runs and has been all weekend. I am really looking forward to this first Chinese Grand Prix tomorrow, as I am sure that there will be lots happening on track and hopefully lots of opportunities to move up the grid.
Timo Glock, Jordan (17th, 1m 37.140s):
The pre-qualifying lap was not perfect and I made a big mistake in turns 9 and 10. The car was nervous, oversteering in slow corners and with understeer at the end of the lap. In qualifying we had changed the car a little bit and it was a lot better. But again I lost half a second in corner 10. I feel bad because the first two sectors were really good and its a shame that I lost so much time in the last sector. I think we are better prepared for the race. I love driving this circuit though, the first part is a bit tricky, but then there are some fast corners and the long straight and a hair pin. Its good fun and I enjoy it so I hope to have a good race.
Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (18th, 1m 40.240s):
We were struggling with some oversteer this morning, but gradually made progress with the chassis balance on longer runs, which will be relevant for our race performance tomorrow. The guys worked very hard today, as they had to make a lot of changes between the third and fourth practice sessions, as well as carry out an engine change. Im happy that I made both my qualifying runs without any mistakes.
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (no time):
I am not really sure what happened when I spun. We usually have to fight some understeer in that corner and we had not changed much on the car since the morning session. At the moment, the data does not provide an answer, so we will look into it. I dont know if it was my fault or not, but if we dont find something on the car then maybe it is down to what is between the fuel tank and the steering wheel! It is hard to say what I can do tomorrow, from this position. One thing is certain, it will be a big challenge. I had to come through the field in Monza and honestly, I was hoping it was the last time this season that I would have to do that. Now, I will just have to try again. I am not angry, just disappointed.
Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi (no time):
We had expected to do a little bit better today, but sadly, Gimmi spun out of contention on his qualifying run. Prior to that, however, both drivers had good practice and pre-qualifying sessions, and we therefore look forward to tomorrows inaugural Grand Prix of China with a healthy mixture of optimism tinged with realism.