Reproduced with kind permission of the FIA
Drivers: 1st Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), 1m46.106s; 2nd Jenson Button (BAR), 1m46.141s; 3rd Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1m46.276s.
Q: Ralf, difficult conditions but you got pole.
Ralf Schumacher: It was a difficult lap for all of us, I think. It was very slippery out there, you it saw with Jarno. He had a bit of bad luck and a lot of the other drivers did as well. He was just on the limit of what we could do and we were lucky with the weather. Especially, it was clear, you saw that with Giancarlo already that he could have gone faster but luckily the rain came in. It was actually down to our predictions, that was perfect, so thanks to the weather guy!
Q: You like Suzuka, you have always said that in the past, and looking at the grid now it is going to be an amazing race tomorrow because you have got a good chance of winning.
RS: It is incredible. I have always loved Suzuka, I have been racing here since 1995. This is the first time for a Japanese team being on pole (here) which is obviously great. The team did a great job and I think we have a good chance tomorrow as well since some of the really strong cars are further back so we could have a really strong race tomorrow.
Q: And you are driving the new T104B Toyota, presumably for preparations next year. Could you talk a bit about the improvements compared to the standard car?
RS: Yeah, thanks really to the pushing in Cologne, they brought the B-car to the last test and we decided it was a better car, more consistent, better front-end: It is basically an evolution to define directions for next year and it worked out.
Q: Jenson, you were out just after Ralf, was the weather maybe a little bit worse then?
Jenson Button: Not at all, it wasn't raining when I was out so I think I was the last of the people in just greasy conditions. We were very lucky, both of us, but it was lucky more for me because I had a very difficult car to drive, a lot of understeer in the car. It's great to be second on the grid and its Honda's home Grand Prix, so it should be a very exciting race tomorrow.
Q: You did some running in the morning. How much were you plunging into the dark in the qualifying lap, you said the handling was not good, how do you live with that problem in the lap?
JB: Well, it's the first time we ran this tyre because we ran a different tyre this morning. It was very difficult. On the out lap I knew I had some big issues, I had massive understeer, I couldnt get my front tyres to work, I dont know if it was temperature or just not enough wing in the car, but it just felt like a very, very slow lap, so to be P2 I am reasonably happy. I am sure all of us have set the car up for tomorrow in the race but for us we are very positive and think we can have a very good home race for the team.
Q: And what are your thoughts for the race in terms of your potential for winning tomorrow, bearing in mind the shape of the grid?
JB: It is never going to be easy even if the McLarens are so far back, we also have got Giancarlo here at the front with us. It is going to be an exciting race and I think we have a better car here in race trim than we have had at the last couple of races, we have solved a few of the problems we have had so we think it will be a strong race for us.
Q: Giancarlo, the rain was falling when you were out there, very difficult conditions, talk us through that.
Giancarlo Fisichella: It is true I have been lucky but unlucky because when I was out for my qualifying lap it started raining quite heavily in the last part of the circuit. I was really confident because his morning after the second free practice I was the quickest and the car balance was really good, so I was confident to do well. Considering the last part of the circuit was a bit too wet for the intermediate tyres I am really happy for today and looking forward to tomorrow.
Q: And of course, the last qualifying with similar conditions was Australia and it worked very well for you there. What are your thoughts on tomorrow?
GF: I am obviously looking forward to it. We have the two McLarens on the back of the grid which is good for us and for the Constructors Championship and for the race tomorrow and it is going to be an interesting race.
Q: Ralf, do you remember the last pole?
RS: No, when was it? I have no clue. Last year in Canada?
Q: In a way this is Toyotas first real pole because they did admit to running light at Indianapolis. What are your feelings on that, I guess you werent running light this time?
RS: I guess so, we will find out tomorrow, wont we! No, certainly not. But at the same time we have been lucky as well. I think we had particularly difficult circumstances but we saw there was not so much between DC and us, although he was out there first, but I was certainly lucky because Giancarlo would have gone a lot faster anyway. We could see that. But it feels great, I mean, being in Japan, on a circuit I like, with Toyota, the first time here on pole and it is a great result for the team.
Q: You mentioned you got the forecast right, did you know it was going to ease up for the first little batch of rain?
RS: Well, actually, usually it never works to my advantage so that is why we were laughing amongst the mechanics and I said okay, once Jarno is done it is fine but then it is going to start as usual! But just the prediction was simply great, I dont know how it happened but it did happen.
Q: You got the right strategy for pole position?
RS: I would almost guess that, I think we have known now since this year that we always have good strategies and I am sure it will work out tomorrow.
Q: Is there a difference between the strategy you might have used for say midfield?
RS: No, no, no. After the morning and after yesterday we were fairly aggressive because we thought that even in dry conditions we might be slightly strong so we have no reason not to go and try to win the race. That could always happen with a bit of luck, the right car and the right tyres, so we are very aggressive in our strategies, so why not?
Q: Are you expecting it to be dry tomorrow?
RS: That is what we expect, yeah. I think that is very common along the pit lane.
Q: Jenson, you must be pleased to be on the front row after the events of the past couple of weeks.
JB: It is fantastic and it is always nice to be on the front row, but especially at Hondas home circuit. Again, as it was for Ralf, it was a little bit lucky, because it did start raining for Giancarlo just after my run. So, yeah, its a bit lucky but sometimes you get bad luck, sometimes you get good luck and its nice to get some luck this time.
Q: Did you get the forecast right?
JB: Yep, pretty much. I think we are correct with our forecast for tomorrow as well. As Ralf said, I think its going to be dry for the race.
Q: You were very quick in the second two sectors but not particularly quick in the first. What happened there?
JB: I just had very low front grip. I thought some of it was to do with the warm-up of the tyre but it wasnt because I had massive understeer throughout the whole lap and I was very surprised to be second quickest, I really was.
Q: Giancarlo, the conditions very much changed during your lap. Did you realise that you were going to have to get as much as you could out of the first sector and just hope for the rest?
GF: Um, unfortunately it was raining when I left the pit lane and the circuit was getting wetter and wetter, but especially in the middle sector and in the last sector it was a bit too wet for the intermediate tyres. But apart from that, I did a very good lap. I was already confident because this morning I was quickest, even with the full wet tyres. It is okay. I have been lucky but unlucky, I am looking forward to tomorrow. I am confident. We have both McLarens at the back of the grid and that is good for the Constructors Championship and for the race, so Im confident.
Q: For the race itself, you have had the second quickest car in the dry, in theory you have a very good chance tomorrow.
GF: We have a very good chance. We feel quite confident and we think we have a good strategy for tomorrow.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: RaIf, which part of the track do you feel is the most difficult to drive?
RS: Well, for me it was almost every part because the car was very oversteery. I think you saw that during the lap. I went wide quite a few times, a snappy rear end, and due to the slippery conditions - it was particularly wet to keep the car on the road and still be able to push (was difficult) and like Jenson, I was surprised. I just didnt expect to do a 1m 46.1s.
Q: (Anthony Rowlinson - Autosport) Ralf, how different is the new car to the previous version?
RS: In detail, you have to ask Mike (Gascoyne) but its clearly a step forward in the way we use the front end of the car, more grip, which works a bit in my favour. I dont know whether it was so helpful in todays conditions but in dry conditions thats really a step forward and thats really to confirm and define the direction for next year. Thats why we brought it as early as possible, to learn more about it.
Q: (Yuki Ishihara Tokyo Sankei Sports) Jenson, you often say McLaren is too good but now they are well behind you. Do you think you can beat them tomorrow?
JB: We will do everything we possibly can to do the best race we can but we have seen before when Kimi has started at the back or Juan Pablo, they have been very strong, especially in a circuit like this where aero is very important. I think we will see them coming through the field very quickly. But we will do everything we possibly can. We cant go into this race feeling defeated already. We have to stay positive and look for the win, definitely.
Q: (Michael Makus - Bild) Is this the new order we can get used to, seeing Honda and Toyota drivers at the front of the grid?
RS: Lets hope you are right.
JB: We are hoping, but you never know. So much can happen during the winter. I am sure that both teams will be moving forwards very much. We are hoping we will move forward more, likewise for Ralf I am sure. I am sure in the future we will be very competitive and we will see both teams challenging for wins in the future.
RS: As he (Jenson) said, basically. When both teams started, obviously Honda has been amongst us longer than Toyota. Its obvious that it needs some time. Now, after four years this year, you would expect us to be further up the grid next year. That is what we all expect and that should be the case anyway. But its going to be a hard fight. McLaren is quite a bit down the road. Even Renault we always forget about Renault - so theres tough work to be done next year.
Q: (Tony Dodgins - Autosport) When you qualify in conditions like that, but expect a dry race, are you running a full dry set-up, or pretty much that way?
JB: Yeah, youve got to. The race is 54 laps long and you have to concentrate on that. One lap in qualifying is important but nothing like the race, and especially the way the system is now, with the tyres and also the fuel load in qualifying, you have to think about the race.
Q: (Niki Takeda Formula PA) Giancarlo, the weight of the Constructors title is now very much on you. How do you feel?
GF: I feel confident, I feel right. It is very important to get to the end of the race and do the best I can. Obviously it would be nice to win the race. We have a good chance, also because the McLarens are in the back of the grid so it is going to be difficult for them to score points - maybe not to score points, its going to be easy but maybe to get on the podium.