French GP: Honda Friday qualifying notes

HONDA SIXTH FASTEST IN FIRST QUALIFYING Villeneuve and Button finish sixth and 19th at Magny-Cours Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve set the sixth fastest time in today's first qualifying session for the French Grand Prix...

Villeneuve and Button finish sixth and 19th at Magny-Cours

Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve set the sixth fastest time in today's first qualifying session for the French Grand Prix while Jenson Button finished 19th.

Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve did not take part in the first free practice session this morning as B*A*R's cars and equipment were sealed in its two transporters as a result of an injunction brought against the team.

Following a court hearing held this morning the cars have now been released unconditionally and the team has recommenced its preparation for Sunday's French Grand Prix. The Circuit de Nevers was hit by heavy rain and high humidity (track 14, air 15 degrees) as the rest of the drivers got to grips with their extreme weather tyres.

The weather conditions remained wet and humid and the track temperature rose to 19 degrees as the first qualifying session got underway at Magny-Cours. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher was first out on track for his one flying lap as he is currently topping the drivers' championship. Button was out 10th in the running order on extreme weather tyres, almost half way through the session, as the track temperature climbed to 23 degrees and the circuit started to dry. The Briton set a time of 1m30.731s, placing him 19th.

Villeneuve was out on track 14th on wet tyres as the track conditions continued to improve. The Canadian put in a tidy lap, setting the provisional pole time of 1m24.651s, qualifying in sixth place once all the runs were completed. For final qualifying tomorrow Button and Villeneuve will be out on track in second and 14th position respectively, as today's times dictate the running order for final qualifying on Saturday.

By the end of the session the track temperature had risen to 28 degrees and all the final runners went out on dry tyres. Minardi's Jos Verstappen set a fastest lap of 1m29.989s around the 4.251km/2.641miles circuit, followed by Jordan's Ralph Firman and Sauber's Nick Heidfeld. Olivier Panis (Toyota) and Jaguar's Antonio Pizzonia finished fourth and fifth while B*A*R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve completes the top six.

Minardi's Justin Wilson had recorded the second fastest time, however during the first post-qualifying session checks the stewards found the Briton's car to be 2.5kg below the minimum weight as set out in the FIA Technical Regulations, so his time was deleted.

Shuhei Nakamoto - Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"We've got one driver going out right at the start of the session tomorrow and one in the final third, so hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of whatever the weather throws at us. We have to put this morning behind us and make sure we get the most out of the cars for the remainder of the weekend."

Jacques Villeneuve Position: 6th

"I'm quite happy with my lap under the circumstances. It's been a frustrating day but there wasn't anything I could do so I just had to work with what I had in a single lap. We started with a good set-up so that was a bonus and all the work we've done at other tracks in the wet certainly helped us today. It's very hard to produce a great lap when you have no knowledge of how the car is going to react, how it will be under braking and, actually, where is the optimum braking point. There were also some really greasy parts of the track which I was discovering for the first time today. You're never going to be on the limit when you're still finding your way and have three new corners to get to grips with. Hopefully we can settle down to do some proper set-up work tomorrow to prepare for final qualifying."

Jenson Button Position: 19th

"Today has obviously been quite difficult for us; the track was drying, we hadn't been able to evaluate the tyre options this morning and there is a whole new section of the track to familiarise ourselves with, all of which would be challenging even without us having missed the whole of the morning session because of the legal situation. We didn't know how much grip there was going to be on the track generally but specifically in the three new corners, so we decided to be quite conservative with the tyre choice and opted for the extreme wet. In hindsight that was obviously the wrong choice but we had nothing to base our decision on and we felt that tyre would get up to temperature much more quickly. There is nothing we could have done about today though so we just have to put it behind us now and make the most of the remaining running in preparation for a better final qualifying session tomorrow."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Antonio Pizzonia , Michael Schumacher , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Justin Wilson , Ralph Firman , Shuhei Nakamoto
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , Minardi , Jordan