Budapest, August 14, 1999 -- The Formula One circus reacquainted itself with a dusty, dirty Hungaroring today, with cars moving sideways as often as straight ahead, and caution was the better part of valour during qualifying for Sunday's...
Budapest, August 14, 1999 -- The Formula One circus reacquainted itself with a dusty, dirty Hungaroring today, with cars moving sideways as often as straight ahead, and caution was the better part of valour during qualifying for Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, after a serious morning session shunt saw Sauber's Jean Alesi helicoptered to hospital.
Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta will start the race from ninth and 17th positions on the grid respectively.
Their relative positions reflect the fact that while Jacques has been reasonably happy with the balance of his car all weeken Ricardo speeds past the Hungarian crowd d, Ricardo has found it difficult to get a set-up that he likes. Neither driver has experienced any mechanical problems, so far.
World Champion Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) took his ninth pole position of the season, rounding the 3.972 km/2.468 mile circuit in one minute, 18.156 seconds. Ferrari's Eddie Irvine (1:18.263) and McLaren's David Coulthard (1:18.384) were second and third, respectively. Jacques Villeneuve was as high as sixth in qualifying before settling for a spot on the fifth row, while Zonta will begin the race on the ninth row.
Hakkinen, Irvine and Coulthard set their best times relatively early in the official qualifying hour and were unable to improve on those performances as the track became grittier and grittier. Very much a high-downforce circuit, the Hungaroring is known for tight chicanes and turns, and the drivers will often cheat on the edge of the gravel in an attempt to find a better racing line. That practice resulted in a lot of dirt being propelled onto the track, making conditions more problematical as the session went on.
Alesi, who totalled his Sauber in the morning practice, returned with a heavily bandaged right foot in time for the qualifying session, and qualified 11th for the race (1:19.390). X-Rays of his right ankle proved negative.
Sunday's race, the 11th Grand Prix on the 16-race 1999 FIA calendar, gets under way at 1400 hrs local time.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE -- 1:19 127 -- 9th "I was hoping to be higher up the grid, but I think we've reached the current limit of the car at this track. The car is still competitive and it allows me to battle my way, but we're lacking some speed. We tried a lot of set-ups this morning in the hope of improving, and on every run I was attacking and testing the limits of the car. This afternoon we didn't change anything and it was performing quite well. We seem to be good on old tyres, so hopefully we will have a good race."
RICARDO ZONTA -- 1:20 060 -- 17th "The car was fine mechanically and we managed to do a lot of laps, so I feel I should be higher up the grid. This morning the balance of the car seemed quite good, but in qualifying I was losing speed in the second sector. Now I'm going to have to do some work to try and find out why. Well done to Jacques though."
CRAIG POLLOCK, President & CEO, British American Racing "I am not too disappointed with the result of this qualifying, because I think Jacques' ninth place reflects the real position of the team. Ricardo seemed to struggle a little today and couldn't improve his qualifying time as much as Jacques, but our focus now is on getting both cars to the finish of Sunday's race."
ROBERT SYNGE, Team Manager, British American Racing "We experienced no mechanical problems with either car all weekend, so we are feeling very encouraged for Sunday. In qualifying we felt we had the potential to do better, but the times are very close as they always are at this track. Jacques was pretty happy with his car and he could possibly have been in the top six, but the last few laps did not turn out to be particularly good for either driver, so we must be satisfied with what we’ve got and concentrate on finishing the race."