HONDA DRIVER TO START FROM FOURTH ROW Villeneuve and Fisichella qualify in seventh and ninth place for US Grand Prix. Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve qualified in seventh position, his best qualifying performance of the year, for...
HONDA DRIVER TO START FROM FOURTH ROW
Villeneuve and Fisichella qualify in seventh and ninth place for US Grand Prix.
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve qualified in seventh position, his best qualifying performance of the year, for tomorrow's grid of the United States Grand Prix while Giancarlo Fisichella (DHL Jordan Honda) will start from ninth place. Olivier Panis (B.A.R Honda) and Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato will line up in 12th and 15th positions respectively.
The early morning mist lifted and the weather conditions improved for the qualifying hour at Indianapolis (24 degrees) and the Speedway attracted a much larger crowd than yesterday. The warmer temperatures and lighter fuel loads meant today's times were two to three seconds quicker than on Friday and the qualifying hour was incredibly close, with just over a second separating the top ten drivers.
B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve was the first driver to take to the track, twenty minutes into the qualifying hour. His B.A.R Honda team-mate Olivier Panis and Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato followed five minutes later, and shortly afterwards Giancarlo Fisichella took to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his first qualifying attack.
Jacques Villeneuve set his best lap on his fourth and final outing, finishing the day as the fastest of the Honda-powered quartet and the top Bridgestone runner after the two Ferraris. The B.A.R Honda driver set a best time of 1m11.738s, which was just over a second faster than his initial timed lap, finally placing him in seventh position on the fourth row of the grid.
Giancarlo Fisichella was the last of the Honda-powered foursome to take to the track for his first of four attacks. The Italian driver set a best time of 1m11.902s on his third run, an improvement of seven tenths of a second on his first flying lap, and will start from the fifth row of the grid in ninth position.
Olivier Panis continued to be plagued by oversteer and also had problems with the tyres in each of his runs. The Frenchman only managed one flying lap, setting a best time of 1m12.161s and moving up to seventh place. However, Panis went on to the grass on his third outing and had to abort his run, so he moved down to 12th on the grid. He didn't have time to go out again so was unable to improve on this position.
Takuma Sato completed four sets of three laps, setting a best time of 1m12.647s on his third run, placing him in 15th position on the grid. Even though Panis and Sato endured difficult sessions, it is encouraging that two Honda-powered drivers qualified in the top ten at a circuit with the second longest full-throttle section of the season.
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher secured pole position, followed by team-mate Rubens Barrichello and McLaren's David Coulthard. The Williams pairing of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher qualified fourth and fifth and Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) completes the top six grid positions.
Shuhei Nakamoto -- Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development
"I'm pleased that two Honda-powered drivers are in the top ten and if Olivier hadn't been forced to abandon some of his runs I'm sure he would've been up there too. Takuma did well under the circumstances -- his engine failed in morning warm up so he couldn't use the unit we had planned for qualifying. I hope we get a good start tomorrow because we should be competitive and we'll be fighting for a points finish."
Jacques Villeneuve Position: 7th
"I'm very pleased with 7th. After yesterday's session I felt we had the potential to make the top 10 but we had a mechanical problem this morning which cost me practice time and I really didn't get enough running to feel too confident about qualifying. As it turned out, the car felt good from the start. We made changes with every run and steadily improved throughout the session. It looks like oversteer is going to be a big problem for a lot of drivers tomorrow though. The asphalt characteristic causes you to slide a lot and you use up all the grip very quickly, so we've got a lot of work to do on race set-up to make sure the tyres don't 'go away'. I don't know what kind of race it will be but I'll try hard and hopefully get into the points at the end of it."
Giancarlo Fisichella Position: 9th
"As I expected, it was a very tough qualifying session. Although there may have been an opportunity to be a couple of places further forward, I achieved my target. It is important here to get the fastest sector times all into one perfect lap, but unfortunately I wasn't able to do it. I am pleased that the car looks reasonably strong in race conditions so I hope that tomorrow will be a good day and that I will score some points."
Olivier Panis Position: 12th
"The tyres reacted differently in each of my runs this afternoon. I had major oversteer on my first run but I improved a lot on my second. Then I would have gone quicker again on my third run had I not been blocked on my quick lap. However, considering how the car has been all weekend, I can consider myself lucky to qualify 12th today."
Takuma Sato Position: 15th
"It was a difficult day. The engine blew at the beginning and I lost all of my first session and ten minutes of the second session and it meant I couldn't use the latest engine spec. The mechanics did a great job of replacing the rear end of the car so quickly and I really appreciate their work. We did our best, but both yesterday and this morning we lost out on valuable time to refine the set-up. For my part, I couldn't get a rhythm together, so all in all it was a very difficult qualifying. We just have to hope that tomorrow will be better."