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Button - new qualifying a step forward 17 Mar 2006

(L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team and David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, 16 March 2006

British duo Jenson Button and David Coulthard have given the new knockout qualifying system the thumbs up ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.

“I enjoyed it,” Button said at Sepang. “I think having Kimi’s (Raikkonen’s) problem in the first qualifying (in Bahrain) made everyone a bit nervous that they weren’t going to get a lap in but I think the system is good and I think the view is fine but my mum was a bit nervous at home. Apart from that I think everyone enjoyed the new format, so I think it’s a step forward.”

Coulthard agreed.

“I think there is a lot of excitement in this new format, it was really quite busy. I didn’t have time to practice the format before the first race, because of various reliability issues, so it was quite a surprise how quickly the session unfolded. And then as Ralf (Schumacher) said, at the end of that first stint, when you are going out and there are 10 cars in front of you and you know the red light is going to come on, it is very difficult to get your lap so it does create an excitement and some cars will get knocked out from time to time because they didn’t get a clear track.

“I didn’t compete in the last part, but I think people will quickly become bored with watching cars run round doing 10 laps. Okay, it uses up mileage that they can’t use at the next race, but I don’t see how that adds to the show. For me qualifying should be about seeing the quickest car, driver, tyre and engine combination on that given day.

“I’d love to be able to come out of Monaco this year and to see the quickest lap that can be done and, as you have it at the moment, pole position is slower than the guy who qualified 11th because 11th is low fuel and pole position is with 30 kilogrammes or whatever fuel they choose to run. Again, if you ask a thousand people you will get a thousand opinions. I still like the old four-laps format because you’ve got that sort of build-up to the last run, you tended most weekends to see what the quickest car could be, but I accept that you would always typically see the fastest package at the front and the slowest at the back and then you didn’t see much racing.”

Jacques Villeneuve was a little less enthusiastic, and expressed some reservations.

“I guess it can be seen as kind of exciting. It’s quite stressful, it doesn’t feel like qualifying because you never sit in the car, figuring out how you are going to get the perfect lap. You just keep doing laps, new-tyre laps and like I said it doesn’t feel like qualifying, but the fans like it so why not? It’s the same for everyone. It’s very busy. That’s funny, because it’s the time of the weekend, before the race, when we do the most laps but we’re not even allowed to set the car up. It’s all a bit strange. It would be nice to work on the car a little bit.”

Today is the chance for the Friday test drivers to excel. While Villeneuve suggested that he personally would rather do more laps, rather than have a part-time team mate get the extra running time, Coulthard said: “I certainly wouldn’t want to take away the opportunity for a young driver to show himself and I understand the reasons. Initially, it was brought in to help the small teams raise extra funds because it could sell the car on a Friday. And clearly the reason it was brought in has been lost. You had BAR last year weren’t able to use a third car, because they finished second in the championship and this year they can. But with McLaren last year having a third car, it was outside the spirit of the rules so for me I think the regulations should be flexible enough to adapt to the spirit of the original rule rather than saying that’s the way it is because it will change eventually. It confuses the whole thing - who is going quick and who is not.

“I totally accept the people who say that if you as a team do a better job then you will have a more reliable package and you will be able to do more laps. But everyone is definitely restricted and has been since the two-engine rule and the amount of laps they run out on the track. If we weren’t restricted, I would definitely be on the track and the other drivers would be so as well.”