1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:10.410s 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:10.795s 3. Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1:10.844s Q. Well done, Mika, and congratulations on a great return of form. This is your first pole position...
1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:10.410s
2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:10.795s
3. Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari), 1:10.844s
Q. Well done, Mika, and congratulations on a great return of form. This is your first pole position since Imola. After the problems of yesterday, were you able to maximise the potential of your car?
Mika Hakkinen: Yes, yes. We lost some time in the first hour yesterday, and then in the second session I lost nearly half an hour, too. The problems we experienced were quite [serious], because we had similar failures in the last race. That was extremely worrying. But we have still managed to get the balance that we wanted to have in the car, and I think this qualifying proves we are in top shape.
Q. What does this pole do for your confidence?
MH: Obviously it is a fabulous thing, and it is a good thing to happen. There have been some races [recently], particularly in qualifying, which have been disappointing for me. Finally we have got it sorted. It is quite a long story to explain what has been going on, but it [has been] a combination of setting the car a little differently for this race, and also of me having some time off to get my act together and prepare for this Grand Prix 100 per cent.
Q. David, you didn't quite make pole position today. Can you pinpoint anything which caused it to slip away from you?
David Coulthard: Yes, I didn't get the first corner right. Normally the first sector has been quite strong for me, and [on my final attempt] I just tried to sneak a little bit more at the entrance to the first corner. I clipped the kerb and was late in getting on to full power. I had lost almost two-tenths by the time I got to turn 2, and then I had to gain that back, plus a little bit more around the rest of the lap [to have set a faster time]. So I didn't quite manage to get it right on that crucial lap. Nonetheless, I am reasonably happy with the performance of the car. From where I am on the grid I can expect to have a good race. I am not too disappointed.
Q. Was the car's set-up on that final run the best you had had it?
DC: Yes. The set-up was definitely better. Unfortunately I was worse! It's [a question of] trying to get both factors right at the same time. I was up against it a little bit because I had gone out early and done two timed laps then. That meant I only had the chance to one run - an 'out' and an 'in' - to allow myself a chance to improve on the final, third attempt. Given the way the weather went it is clear that four runs would have been a more sensible way to have done it.
Q. You mention the weather, and the track was certainly very busy as soon as it opened this afternoon. What had your weather forecasters told you?
DC: The forecast was for patchy weather and then it would be OK. But instead of relying on the forecast it is [much wiser] to take into account what you can see immediately above you, because local weather patterns can generate themselves, depending on the temperature. I didn't want to find myself in a situation of waiting in the belief that it would become dry, and then missing an opportunity. Clearly everyone felt the same way, but I just committed to the two timed laps [on each of those first two runs], and that left me committed to just three timed runs. By then it looked completely dry. I really needed the four runs to find exactly where I was on the new tyres.
Q. Rubens, you have been faster than Michael Schumacher all weekend. Have you got a better set-up, or is there some specific reason why you have had the advantage on him in every session?
Rubens Barrichello: I don't know. I particularly like the track and I think found a really good set-up for the car. I have been calm all weekend. Just like Mika, I also had some good time off last weekend, so I am relaxed and in a good mood. Today I am third on the grid. The car was running quite well and there was a possibility of being even higher. It's just everything going right for me now.
Q. Mika, with Michael Schumacher in 4th place behind both McLarens, you must be feeling happy about your chances in tomorrow's race ...
MH: Yes. I feel very confident for the race, and now it is just a question of getting the car to handle exactly the way we want it for the race. Let's hope everything goes 100 per cent and we manage to get around the first two corners safely - not like last year. I am looking forward to the race.
Q. Mika, you say you still have some work to do on setting up the car for the race. Are you on top of the work load?
MH: We have already done some work [preparing] for the race, particularly yesterday. Unfortunately I lost some time in the first hour yesterday, so I was a little bit behind the schedule. But I am not too concerned about that. I am very confident about being able to find the setup we are going to need for tomorrow.
Q. At Magny-Cours you mentioned a nervousness in the handling of the car at the rear end. Was that an isolated problem?
MH: There is a reason why a couple of the last few GPs haven't gone the way I wanted them to go, and why I have not been performing at the level that I wanted. All through the season we have been making changes to the car to try to make it quicker, and now we have done that in certain areas. But I have quite an aggressive driving style and this needs a particular setup. We were definitely losing time at Monaco, and in Canada and Magny-Cours, just because the settings I had on the car were not the optimum for my driving style. Sometimes it isn't easy to acknowledge that and to realise [what's happened], because there are so many different elements on the car that can be changed or adjusted. After Magny-Cours I was quite nervous about a situation in which I wasn't quick enough. After the Grand Prix there we had a very careful discussion with the engineers, and there have been changes to the car for this Grand Prix. Also, the team gave me some time off to get myself relaxed and focused 100 per cent. Coming to this Grand Prix the car was immediately better, well ... not immediately, because it stopped in the first hour. But as soon as I was able to run 100 per cent I felt the car was strong and handling well. I felt good, and here is the result.
Q. David, the margin of 0.385 second between you and Mika is quite a wide one, especially considering that this is quite a short lap ...
DC: If you look at the potential lap times [without the mistake I made at the first corner], the margin would not be so big - maybe only two tenths - and a lot of that came from the last two corners [where I was losing time]. Ultimately it doesn't matter whether you're slower in qualifying by two hundredths or two tenths - you just have to concentrate on your performance in the race, and I am pretty confident about that. Obviously we'll be closely matched in terms of engine performance and that sort of thing. I just have to take the opportunities when they come.
Q. And Michael Schumacher is starting behind you ...
DC: That's right. I was saying to Rubens just to be careful at the start, and maybe he should offer his grid position to Michael, because he'll end up over on that side of the road before he gets to the first corner anyway ...
Q. Rubens, you set your time quite early today ...
RB: At first, when I saw the rain [apparently heading for the circuit], I thought the track would get wet. And that would have meant it was the only run I could do in the dry. There was quite a lot of talk with Ross [Brawn], and it was my call, we decided to go then. Luckily I had traffic on my second lap, because I [aborted it instead of] completing it. Otherwise I would have lost the chance to use four sets of tyres because the weather turned out well and I was able to do the normal job. I reckon my car had the potential to be on the first row today, but this can be a tricky circuit because it is so slippery and because there are often stones on the road from where other cars have been off into the gravel. It is very difficult here to get everything right, as I found. I lost the first run with traffic, the second run was good, on the third I made a mistake and on the fourth run I was under a little bit of pressure because time was running out and it might have rained again. I think the car was capable of a 1:10.6s, it is handling consistently and the tyres look good for the race. I am quite optimistic about tomorrow.