A1-RING, Spielberg, Austria, July 24, 1999 â€“ Although both drivers showed steadily improved lap times today in preparation for the Austrian Grand Prix, the British American Racing team could not improve enough against the field to maintain ...
A1-RING, Spielberg, Austria, July 24, 1999 – Although both drivers showed steadily improved lap times today in preparation for the Austrian Grand Prix, the British American Racing team could not improve enough against the field to maintain previous provisional grid positions and so will start Sunday's race from the middle of the pack. Ricardo Zonta improved his time by half a second, but dropped 11 places to 15th, while Jacques Villeneuve slipped one place to ninth and will start on the fifth row.
Lack of traction was a problem right at the beginning of the day, but as the track became more grippy during the morning sessions, both drivers found that handling problems experienced during Friday's free practice were increased. Zonta, in particular, experienced difficulty setting up on new tyres, which seemed to exacerbate the understeer which he had suffered on Friday. As a result, he spun off the track twice during the hour-long qualifying session.
Neither car experienced any significant mechanical problems, although Jacques Villeneuve had a minor clutch malfunction, so as a precautionary measure the team changed his gearbox during the lunch break.
The McLaren duo of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard start Sunday's race from the front row, with Eddie Irvine (Ferrari) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) on the second row. Hakkinen won his seventh pole position of the 1999 season with a best time of one minute, 10.934 seconds on the 4.319km/2.684 mile A-1 Ring circuit.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE – 1:12.833 – 9th "At the moment I think that ninth is the limit for the car here. This morning the car was not very good on new tyres, so we went back to old ones. Also, we were too slow on the straights so we decided to take some wing off, and that was the wrong way to go. It's a pity because the mechanical side is working well, but we still need something more. On my last run I drove slowly while they were clearing Ricardo's car, but with cold tyres I was sliding all over the place, so I called it a day and came back in. On Sunday, we'll just have to try and make up places. The A1-Ring is a circuit where you can overtake, so the race should be full of action and surprises."
RICARDO ZONTA – 1:13.172 – 15th "I am very disappointed because on Friday we seemed to have the balance right and things were going well. Today's track conditions were different and we didn't seem to be able to get the right configuration – I had bad understeer and it was difficult to really push. It also meant that we spent too much time working on the set-ups and I wasn't able to put in two quick laps together."
CRAIG POLLOCK, Managing Director, British American Racing "A disappointing session after Friday when everything went so well. We thought we'd have both cars in the top 10, so we are not too happy with the final result. However we need to get points now, and so we have to concentrate on getting both cars to the end of the race and into the points on Sunday."
ROBERT SYNGE, Team Manager, British American Racing "We thought we could do better than that because we felt the cars were capable of more. Ricardo went off on his slowing down lap – he locked up under braking at the first corner – and that unfortunately delayed Jacques on his final flying lap. Otherwise no particular problems with the cars, they’re just not as fast as we would have liked."