Barcelona, May 29, 1999 - British American Racing's Jacques Villeneuve will start Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix from the third row on the grid, a confirmation of his team's consistent improvement and growing confidence after a solid qualifying ...
Barcelona, May 29, 1999 - British American Racing's Jacques Villeneuve will start Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix from the third row on the grid, a confirmation of his team's consistent improvement and growing confidence after a solid qualifying performance today.
After Jean Alesi of Sauber Petronas surprised the thousands in attendance at the Circuit de Catalunya by posting the fastest lap in the first half of the 60-minute qualifying session, with a time of 1 minute, 22.388 seconds on the 4.728 km track, Villeneuve reeled off a 1:22.855 to claim third place.
Alesi would never improve on that effort seven minutes into the Q session, run under blisteringly hot 42-degree Celsius conditions, with dry winds kicking up a lot of dust. The Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine and the McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard began trading the fastest lap among them as the hour moved along, shunting Alesi into fifth and Villeneuve into sixth position in the session. Neither would be moved from that position, even though the Canadian driver for British American Racing would improve his time to 1:22.703.
At session's end, Hakkinen would have pole position on a time of 1:22.088, ahead of Irvine at 1:22.219, Coulthard at 1:22.244 and Schumacher at 1:22.277. A year ago, Hakkinen set a qualifying record with a time of 1:20.262.
Mika Salo's 16th fastest time does not truly reflect his potential, as he ran with harder compound tyres which have less grip, thus producing slower times.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE - 1:22.703 - 6th "I'm happy with my times, in spite of 45 minutes lost this morning because of a small fuel problem. That was a pity because the car is fast and I think we could have been closer to the front with a bit more running time. This afternoon I went wide at Turn Two during my second run which was unfortunate, but I don't think it cost me too much time. Overall, the car and the team are working well, the engine is fine and I can't see why it should not continue. I am confident that we're going to be fast in the race on Sunday, now let's hope we can make it to the chequered flag."
MIKA SALO - 1:23.683 - 16th "I'm a little disappointed as this morning my best time was quicker, good enough for 10th position on the grid. We had been fairly happy with the car's balance, but of course as the track heated up this afternoon we had to make more changes, which upset the rhythm. The overall balance of the car is good though, and I shall be pushing hard in the race to make up places."
CRAIG POLLOCK, Managing Director, British American Racing "We have mixed feelings as we know both drivers could have been better placed for the race. Mika's best time from this afternoon was taken away because of the yellow flag infringement, and Jacques made a mistake on his fastest lap and lost position. So, not a perfect day for us, but overall I am very happy with the way the team is working together, and now we must keep our fingers crossed. The performance is there and reliability is all we need for a good result in Sunday's race."
ROBERT SYNGE, Team Manager, British American Racing "The team performed well under pressure today. We were slightly disappointed for Jacques as he made a mistake on his second flying lap and went wide in the second sector, which we think may have cost him second or third position."
British American Racing driver Ricardo Zonta was declared fit to race today following a FIA medical test and he will be rejoining the team at the Canadian Grand Prix in two weeks.