European GP Saturday press conference

1. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Jordan-Mugen/Honda 1:19.910 2. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.176 3. Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.376 Q. Many congratulations, Heinz-Harald, on your first pole position ...

1. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Jordan-Mugen/Honda 1:19.910 2. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.176 3. Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.376

Q. Many congratulations, Heinz-Harald, on your first pole position since Monaco 1997. How do you feel?

Heinz-Harald Frentzen: Great! I have to say I couldn't believe it. Everything has come all of a sudden. On Friday we had a gearbox problem, then this morning we had to change the engine because we had a traumatic [pneumatic] valve leak, although it turned out that it was only a broken hose. But we lost so much time changing the engine that actually we never got into a rhythm. Even in qualifying it was dreadful. I have to apologise to my team: we had some friction between us about [choosing] the right moment to go out and at one stage we were all shouting at one another. But that's what I like -- though don't misunderstand me, it's alright if it goes up and down that much when circumstances are so difficult outside. It is very difficult to make the decision that's going to be right at the end. We had [already] changed the setup so many times during the session, and at the end I was fuelled for seven timed laps, so at the end I was carrying too much fuel because I had decided to come in the pits again for a change of tyres. OK, so it was a chaotic practice -- and it's unbelievable that I am on top of it!

Q. In situations of conflict like that, who gets the final word? Is it you, [your engineer] Sam Michael, or Eddie Jordan?

HHF: We were fighting each other. In the end we did something different -- and we were planning to do it.

Q. You had some clear laps at the end there. Had you managed to avoid the traffic?

HHF: Yes, and I was trying to do another timed lap, but then I did start to get a bit of traffic.

Q. David, congratulations on beating Mika in qualifying for only the second time this year. But you still haven't been able to get your first pole position of the year. Are you happy or sad?

David Coulthard: Well, the pole is what I have been aiming for. To do that you have to beat Mika. Now, with Heinz on the pole it obviously makes a different [kind of] race for us all. Given the nature of the circuit it is quite difficult to overtake here, so it will be a strategic race as always. What else is there to say, except that it was a pretty exciting session for everyone watching at home? For all the teams and drivers, though, it has been quite frustrating. In these conditions, as Heinz was saying, you don't know exactly when to go for a time, when not to go, how much fuel to run, and whether it's better to change tyres. It's all a question of last-minute split-second decisions. And I am thankful we are at the front end of the grid.

Q. You have been saying all weekend that any decision on team orders with regard to Mika would have to wait until after qualifying. Now that you're faster than him, surely you must expect to be allowed to race for the title?

DC: Well, we didn't say it would be decided after qualifying: we said you would all have to wait and see what happened after qualifying. Those are two different things. And [I say] again, the championship is still wide open. Obviously the advantage lies with Mika because he is 12 points ahead. But in truth we need to get into the race and see what's happening, because there's an hour and a half of Grand Prix racing still to go before we can get both cars to the finish.

Q. Mika, you really dominated this weekend's sessions of free practice. Were you upset when it started raining this morning before qualifying?

Mika Hakkinen: Initially it was a little disappointing that it was raining. But then I thought [about it and I knew] that the car was too good in both conditions to worry about: I knew we were going to be competitive whether it rained or whether it was sunny.

Q. In your last runs it appeared that you suffered quite badly from the traffic. Was that right?

MH: Ye-es. But I don't feel that the traffic would have made that much difference. If I had had a clear run at the end I doubt that I would have made a brilliant lap time. But in my fastest lap, I had quite bad traffic going through the last sector in particular. I was not able to get on the throttle as early as I wanted to go, and I lost some time.

Q. Heinz-Harald, after losing so much track time in the past two days, are you confident you now have the race pace to keep these two McLaren boys behind you tomorrow afternoon?

HHF: No, not at all! I am sure they'll blow me off at the start and then disappear! No, after all, once we had a clear lap the car was in good shape. I was amazed, actually, how good the car was, despite not having had so much practice. Once I got a lap on new tyres the car felt great. Mugen-Honda is giving us great support with the latest engine and the team did a superb job. We have tried to do everything to get the best stuff on our car, and I am pretty confident that we will be looking just as strong in the race tomorrow.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Eddie Jordan
Teams Mercedes , McLaren , Jordan