Nurburgring,September 24, 1999 -- British American Racing came away from today's free practice for the European Grand Prix with mixed emotions. Jacques Villeneuve was reasonably happy with his car, setting his best time in the afternoon session...
Nurburgring,September 24, 1999 -- British American Racing came away from today's free practice for the European Grand Prix with mixed emotions. Jacques Villeneuve was reasonably happy with his car, setting his best time in the afternoon session to finish 10th on the day, while Ricardo Zonta struggled to find a comfortable set-up and dropped four spots to 21st in the afternoon round.
Zonta suffered with understeer in the morning session, and then several minor problems beset his car during the afternoon. Villeneuve, on the other hand, dropped to 10th from eighth in the morning but still managed to improve his lap time by almost a second, to one minute, 21.850 seconds, just over a second off the pace.
McLaren's Mika Hakkinen was fastest on the day with 1:20.758, edging out fellow Finn Mika Salo (Ferrari) who came in at 1:20.920. The defending world champion has won every pole but two this season and appears well prepared to attack the fabled Nurburgring circuit for Saturday's official qualifying round.
The story of the day on a dry and warm track was Olivier Panis of Prost who was 15th in the morning session, and then took off more than two seconds per lap in the afternoon to place third (1:21.134). Rounding out the top six were Eddie Irvine (Ferrari, 1:21.338), Ralf Schumacher (Williams, 1:21.385) and David Coulthard (1:21.461).
The European Grand Prix is the last event in the European leg of the 1999 FIA Formula One season. After Sunday's race, the Grand Prix teams will move on to Malaysia and Japan for the final two races of the year.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE -- 1:21.850 -- 10th "We did 42 trouble-free laps today, and the car seems competitive which is great, although we don't know what the other cars had for tyres and fuel load. We are running with a new clutch that is a lot easier to drive so my starts should be better this weekend, and I've also finally got the hydraulic differential, which I expect to make a difference. I had my first race win and my last at this track, but I've never been really fast here, so to be competitive today was a good boost. I usually don't like this circuit because of the inherent understeer, but we managed to find a good setup today to compensate for that."
RICARDO ZONTA -- 1:23.604 -- 21st "I am not running with the same equipment as Jacques at this race as he has a new development differential and clutch fitted on his car, so I feel at a bit of a disadvantage. I also have some work to do on finding a good set-up. We started this morning with quite a lot of understeer, especially in the slower corners. We fixed that but the change made the car more nervous at the rear under power. Our car is performing better with new tyres and I didn't do a good new tyre run with my last set-up because my engine developed a problem, so I will have to concentrate on getting the best compromise set-up on Saturday morning."
CRAIG POLLOCK, Chairman & CEO, British American Racing "We were surprised that Ricardo was unable to do better today, and we will have to do some work before Saturday to get him back on track for a good qualifying position. Jacques had a good day and is quite happy with his performance up to now."
ROBERT SYNGE, Team Manager, British American Racing "Jacques had a very good session and seems to be fairly happy with the balance of his car, although we were not as quick as we had expected on new tyres. Ricardo is struggling a little at the moment but we expect him to move closer to Jacques on Saturday. Neither car experienced any mechanical problems today."