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Belgian GP Pole position press conference

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Saturday 29 August 1998 Qualifying: 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:48.682 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:48.845 3. Damon Hill (Jordan-Mugen/Honda), 1:49.728 Q. Mika, congratulations on pole position number 10...

Saturday 29 August 1998

Qualifying: 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:48.682 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:48.845 3. Damon Hill (Jordan-Mugen/Honda), 1:49.728

Q. Mika, congratulations on pole position number 10 of your career. It must have been exciting at the end when you snatched the fastest time away from David Coulthard...

MH: That was an unbelievable session and I still can't explain it one hundred per cent. It was obviously going to be a great fight with David and before I went out on the last set of tyres, even though the limits were very small, I knew I would have to do something unbelievable because I had been [driving] on the limit on the run before. I also knew that he had probably managed to go quicker than on his previous fastest run, so it made for a really good fight. I was in the fortunate position to get first place. It was great stuff!

Q. How did your team decide which driver was to go first on each run?

MH: For me it was like being in a sandwich, because first it was David who went out, then me and Michael behind me. That made things difficult, because obviously you don't want to be too close to the guy in front in case you lose downforce, but you also have to worry about the cars coming out behind you, in case they are about to try for a fast run. I didn't want to be too close to David, but also I didn't want to be too slow to spoil Michael's attempt. I was obviously asking the team for advice, and also using my own imagination a little bit -- and it really worked.

Q. Is it a comfort to know that there is a gap of more than one second separating you from Damon in third place and Michael in fourth?

MH: It is obviously good, but I have to admit that it shows yet again the potential and strength of our team, our engine and our car -- not to mention of David. I also have to take my hat off to Damon, I was impressed to see his performance. It was only Thursday that we were sitting together in another press conference when he was talking about the good things that are now happening to his team. His performance showed how right he was.

Q. David, you had the disappointing experience of being on provisional pole until the very last moments of the session. Do you know where you lost the time on your own final run?

DC: Unfortunately I know exactly where I lost it! I tried to sneak a bit more kerb going into the bus stop [chicane] and I bottomed out the car on the left hand kerb, which made the car jump and throw me out of shape for the final part of the bus stop. For what it's worth, I was up by a couple of tenths [to that point] in the final sector times. It was always going to be close, but then I gave it away there. It is obviously disappointing not to have pole position here, but it's still possible to have a good race from second place on the grid.

Q. Would it have been any easier if you had not had the pressure of knowing Mika was going to come out behind you for his final attempt?

DC: Not at all. I qualify looking ahead and I never look in my mirrors until I am on my cooling-down lap, in order not to spoil anyone else's qualifying run. So it made no difference whatsoever until I finished my lap, and by then I already knew I had given away the potential to be quicker on that run. I expected Mika to be quicker.

Q. Damon, the last time you qualified in a top three position was in Hungary last year. How does it feel to be up here again?

DH: Absolutely brilliant! I am very happy. A lot of this is due to the exceptionally hard work which has been put into this by everyone at Jordan, and at Mugen-Honda. To have got from where we were at the start of the season to where we have been in the last few races, culminating in today's performance, is a tremendous effort. I am very happy for everyone on the team. I also have to say that I think I am driving beautifully at the moment ... and I am really enjoying myself. I am working well together with my engineer Dino Tosso and the car setup has been improving all the time. We did a great job to get this far.

Q. You came out just behind Michael Schumacher on that last run. Where do you think you picked up the time to push him back to fourth place?

DH: This is the first opportunity I have had to study the timing monitors and the difference is only one hundredth of a second or so, which means it could have been anywhere. We all went out at the same time, so obviously I could see him on the track ahead of me, so there was a bit of gamesmanship on the 'out' lap because everyone was playing for space. I didn't want to be the last one and not get the lap in ... so it was good fun.

Q. You've won this race twice before. What do you expect from tomorrow?

DH: Although I am obviously looking forward to the race tomorrow, right now I intend to celebrate today. I am really happy with what we have achieved and I want to celebrate with the team.

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