Saturday 1 August 1998 Pole Position Press Conference Qualifying: 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:41.838s 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:42.347s 3. Jacques Villeneuve...
Saturday 1 August 1998 Pole Position Press Conference
Qualifying: 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:41.838s 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:42.347s 3. Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Mecachrome), 1:42.365s
Q. Congratulations, Mika, on the seventh pole position of your career. After this morning's practice you said you weren't happy with the balance of your McLaren. How was it this afternoon?
MH: It was obviously not perfect. But we made some improvements to the balance for qualifying, and it was definitely much better. One of the problems with racing drivers is that they are never happy with their cars. But I am very happy with the improvements that were made.
Q. This is the first dry qualifying session of the year where pole position has been quicker than it was last year. Can you explain why that should be?
MH: I can't give a detailed explanation, but certainly the cars are quicker in a straight line under the latest regulations because they are narrower. Also I guess the tyres have less friction on the straights, because the compound is much harder. But the engines are better, too, particularly for us. Mercedes has developed more power than we had last year. But the dominant factor is probably the lower drag in a straight line.
Q. Have you been surprised by the much improved performance here of Williams and Jordan?
MH: Yes, I have. What Jacques has done here this weekend proves again that he is a quality driver. He is talented and he is the world champion. He paid me to say that! As far as Jordan is concerned, they have also improved quite a lot.
Q. There is a possibility of the race being wet tomorrow. How do you feel about that?
MH: I don't have any feelings about it at the moment. If it rains, then tomorrow is tomorrow. We will just have to find the best possible solution and look for a good balance. As we have already shown this year, we are extremely competitive in the wet. Let's wait and see.
Q. But Hockenheim can be dangerous in the wet ...
MH: Yes, I fully agree, it can be dangerous. We are going at such high speed that aquaplaning could be a big problem out there if it rains heavily. It is a question for the Clerk of the Course, to make sure [the officials] can see the conditions round the circuit all the time. I hope they know exactly what they are doing.
Q. David, after setting fastest time this morning, are you disappointed to be second in qualifying?
DC: A little bit, because qualifying is always an exciting time. By the time it comes down to your last couple of runs it feels good if you have got up to speed with the circuit and made what you hope will be some good decisions on the setup. Obviously I didn't get a chance [to improve] on my last two runs, but I am relieved that I managed to hold on to second place, because a good grid position is always important. Let's see what happens tomorrow.
Q. David, there was a margin of half a second between the two of you at the end, but you didn't get a final run. Did you think you could have been on pole?
DC: It would have been close. I can't say what the last couple of runs would have been like, but when I came back and took the T car and I started that last run it felt like it was a bit more grip on the circuit. But it is difficult on this track to know exactly what a different car is going to do because the set-up was more for Mika, so it was an attempt, but it was always going to be a long shot as whether you'd improve or not on your first run in a different car. But on the track it definitely felt like there was more grip, and people were generally quicker towards the end. So I can presume that I would have done the same.
Q. How do you feel about the race?
DC: Relaxed. We know we have a good race car. Reliability is always an issue on this track because of the higher engine revs. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Strategy wise, it will be interesting to see what our rivals decide to do. But I'm really feeling comfortable for the race.
Q. Could it be a team race tomorrow?
DC: It is always a team race. [I'm] serious. You always have to consider what the team is doing, and then we [are still deciding] the strategy right up to the moment when we go out on the circuit.
Q. Jacques, the last lap looked as if it was going to be quicker right up until you came into the stadium section. What happened?
JV: Into the last two corners there was a Stewart-Ford going pretty slowly, and I slowed down a little bit because of that. Too bad because for the first time this year we could actually fight for pole.
Q. Renault won here last year, can you do it this year with the Mecachrome?
JV: It will be tough to compete against David and Mika. But we can hold our own in the race tomorrow. I'm sure we can be competitive. The car is pretty strong, the set-up is good. There is not much difference between the engine we use in qualifying and the engine we use in the race, so we should be up at the front tomorrow.
Q. What has made the difference here compared to other tracks?
JV: This year when we have run with low downforce, which has just been [in testing] at Monza, the car seems to have been working well. This was the first time I actually enjoyed a Williams in low downforce configuration because both in 1996 and 1997 the car was very difficult to drive here. This year somehow in the low downforce sections it seems to work [much better].