Montreal, June 11, 1999 -- Ricardo Zonta and Jacques Villeneuve capped British American Racing's first appearance in North America today with the team's best-yet results in free practice for a Grand Prix race. The pair completed the afternoon...
Montreal, June 11, 1999 -- Ricardo Zonta and Jacques Villeneuve capped British American Racing's first appearance in North America today with the team's best-yet results in free practice for a Grand Prix race. The pair completed the afternoon free practice session for the Air Canada Grand Prix in sixth and ninth place, separated by just over two-tenths of a second, after a trouble-free day at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit.
Eddie Irvine of Ferrari turned in the best lap of the day (1 minute, 20.576 seconds), barely ahead of McLaren's David Coulthard in 1:20.884. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, in third, led a group of five drivers on 1m.21 seconds, including Zonta on 1:21.810.
Zonta's performance was no less than astounding considering that the 31 laps he ran today represented by far the biggest workload for him since he suffered a serious foot injury in free practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix, and had been sidelined since April 9. Last week the team had intended for him to get some distance in during testing but heavy rains scotched that plan.
Hometown hero Jacques Villeneuve, who has a history of poor performances on the track named after his father, kept improving throughout both sessions and turned in a best lap of 1:22.021 right on his final turn at 2 p.m.
Weather conditions were hot and sunny throughout, and are expected to be the same for Saturday's qualifying session.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE -- 1:22.021 -- 9th "We completed a full session this morning and were able to do a lot of work setting up the car, which is working well although we still have room for improvement. The changes we made gave us more traction for the afternoon session and the car was a lot stronger in the bumps. Ricardo's position is encouraging for the team as a whole as I think he was working on a different programme - so it's looking good."
RICARDO ZONTA -- 1:21.810 -- 6th "In the morning I suffered badly from lack of grip, with oversteer under braking and wheelspin on the exits to the corners. I was lowering the revs on the gear changes to try and counteract this. Another problem was that the brakes were overheating quite badly and this also affected the handling. However, the team made some changes during the break and the car felt much better in the afternoon session, so that I was able to concentrate on learning the track and finding the right braking places. I'm pleased with my time and very happy to be back in the car."
CRAIG POLLOCK, Managing Director, British American Racing "We were a little concerned about Ricardo's condition before today, but for his first day back in the car he has done an absolutely incredible job, and really looks good for the rest of the weekend. As far as Jacques is concerned he is pleased with the progress he made today, and we are happy to have both cars in the top 10."
ROBERT SYNGE, Team Manager, British American Racing "The cars ran perfectly today and the whole team performed very well. We are new to the circuit as well as Ricardo, so we are very pleased with our top-10 placings at this stage, and are feeling confident for Saturday's qualifying session."