Austrian GP Saturday press conference

Q. Congratulations, Mika, on such a convincing pole position. But with barely ten minutes of the session gone, you were running back to the pits after your race car stopped just after you left pit lane. Can you explain why? Mika Hakkinen: I ...

Q. Congratulations, Mika, on such a convincing pole position. But with barely ten minutes of the session gone, you were running back to the pits after your race car stopped just after you left pit lane. Can you explain why?

Mika Hakkinen: I don't know what happened yet, it was just that I lost the power of the engine and I had to pull off before I had got as far as the second corner. I had to come back and get the T-car. That was a very difficult moment: you have to keep your head really cool in that type of situation.

Q. This is your 17th pole position and you appear to have gained some special satisfaction from it. Is that correct?

MH: Normally when you go out in the T-car for qualifying, particularly in my case, [you don't expect to be on pole]. And stopping with my race car at the exit of the pit lane makes a different situation. Normally the T-car is identical to your race car -- or it should be -- so the differences involved are very often more psychological than anything else. I was happy to be able to concentrate myself and the engineers all the way through on maximising the car for qualifying, to be as quick as possible. It was great team work again and it's great to be on the pole.

Q. Was the car perfect from the start? Or did you change it during the session?

MH: I wish it was always like that, but that is not the case. You have to change quite a few things in the car, actually. But again that is quite normal: you have to compensate for things like changes in wind direction or the condition of grip level in the track. You have to adapt the balance of the car, which we are doing constantly.

Q. Are you confident about the race?

MH: We had good running [in race trim] yesterday and at the moment we already have a pretty good picture of the set-up we will have to start the race tomorrow. Going on the experience of last year, this is a very hard Grand Prix: tough on the car and heavy on the brakes. There are many difficulties involved, from yellow flags to so many other [unpredictable things] which can happen. So it is nice to have this margin over Eddie, who is lying second in the world championship. I will just have to go flat out to get the maximum that I can from this race.

Q. David, you also had an in-and-out lap for attention in the pits. Why was that?

David Coulthard: We had a small electronic problem and I wanted to be sure that it wasn't going to affect my qualifying lap. [The crew] didn't have time in the one lap to look at the data, so it was better for me to come in. It was fine: it just required a re-set, then I could go for it.

Q. All weekend you and Mika have been very close, but at the end of today's session the track seemed to have got slower. Was that a correct impression?

DC: I am not sure. The last set of tyres I put on didn't seem to offer quite as much grip as the first two sets, which were completely brand new. It wasn't a big difference -- the lap time was within half a tenth -- but I just didn't feel as confident to attack the corners, which is what you have to do in qualifying.

Q. Are you disappointed to be second on the grid?

DC: It would be nice to be on the pole. But once again Mika did a good job and was quicker in the middle sector. [My times through] the first and final sectors are not too bad, I feel very comfortable with the car and I can throw it around. Potentially I think we have a great race tomorrow.

Q. I don't know whether this is a sensible question or not. But is this an easier circuit on which to make mistakes than others?

DC: Some circuits are more forgiving than others when you run wide. This track -- for me, anyway -- does not seem to penalise a driver much in terms of lap time when he runs wide. That's probably because at most of the corners you're not maximum on the brakes at the entry or maximum on the power: instead, you trail off the brakes and trail on to the power. That averages out between the 'in' and the 'out' of the car.

Q. Is this a circuit, then, on which you feel confident?

DC: Yes. I have been quick all weekend, very happy with the car from the word 'go,' and I am in great shape for the race. If we have reliability and conditions like this tomorrow, potentially it is going to be very close between the two of us. And who know what will happen with Ferrari come tomorrow? It will come down to track position, pit stops and that sort of thing.

Q. Eddie, before qualifying you said you thought you had managed to close the gap right down on the McLarens. Suddenly it's opened out to more than one second. Is there an explanation?

Eddie Irvine: We underperformed, to be honest. We should have done a 1m 11.5s lap, but I just couldn't use the brakes. When you consider where the car's performance is, from the point of the track and new tyres, that's basically where I lost all the time from this morning. We are going to have to look at that and see what the story is.

Q. Can you give any more details of the brake problem?

EI: The car was just very critical on the brakes. It has been [like that] all day today, and yesterday. In qualifying, because you're not warmed up and because you know the brakes are consistent in temperature, it causes more difficulty. But when you look at where I should have been, the [true] gap isn't one second, it's half a second. The race will be a totally different situation. Looking back at Silverstone, I was one second away from Mika in qualifying, but in the race I wasn't so far away. From the point of view of the start I am in the right position, as I am hoping DC will find out tomorrow!

Q. So you're confident about tomorrow?

EI: I want to get on with the race, because our car is good. It is well balanced and the big issue today was that I couldn't commit to the corners: at the same corners I was locking fronts and locking rears on different runs, it was doing totally opposite things. That was why I couldn't get a lap together: on one lap I would lock the fronts at one corner and go straight on, then on the next lap the rears would lock. That won't be an issue in the race tomorrow because the temperatures will more stabilised. I am expecting to be able to give the McLarens a good run for their money tomorrow.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen
Teams Ferrari , McLaren