French GP Saturday press conference

Pole position press conference 1. Rubens Barrichello (Stewart-Ford) 1:38.441 2. Jean Alesi (Sauber-Petronas) 1:38.881 3. Olivier Panis (Prost-Peugeot) 1:40.400 Q. Congratulations, Rubens, you've done it again! After Spa in ...

Pole position press conference

1. Rubens Barrichello (Stewart-Ford)   1:38.441
2. Jean Alesi (Sauber-Petronas)        1:38.881
3. Olivier Panis (Prost-Peugeot)       1:40.400 

Q. Congratulations, Rubens, you've done it again! After Spa in 1994, this is your second pole position, so welcome back. It's a long time ...

Rubens Barrichello: A long time since 1994, yes, but the conditions here are the same as they were at Spa. That means there's going to be a lot of pressure on me next time it rains, because people are expecting more and more from me. Today we decided to go out early, but in fact I think we took too long to go out, because it looked as though it was going to rain. My weather man told me it would start raining after 15 minutes, and I always believe him. On my second lap it had just started to rain quite hard, so it was pleasing to complete the lap. I had no idea it was going to finish like this, because there was still 35 minutes of the session to go. But what a fantastic feeling! It was a good decision to go out then, due to good timing. It made me so pleased not only for my two engineers but also for Gary [Anderson], who was also there with me [at Jordan] in 1994.

Q. How do you make the decision to go out early, like you and the two Prost drivers did today?

RB: In the wet, you must get it right. This year we had never been out in conditions as wet as they were in qualifying today, so I took the first lap very cautiously. Then when I crossed the line and looked at the timing, I could see that Jean was 1.5 seconds faster. Jean is really good in the wet, so I told myself I would have to push really hard to get a really good time in immediately. That was crucial. Apart from a little extra wing, the car was actually set up for the dry at that time because we thought the track might dry out before the end of the session. When I went out later, we had changed the car for the wet. Decisions like that can make all the difference.

Q. You were also quick in the dry this morning, so you must be feeling quite confident ...

RB: I don't think my fastest time this morning was a bluff, but on the other hand we must believe that other drivers could have been faster, especially the McLarens and Ferraris on new tyres. I know they had fresh tyres at the beginning of the second session this morning, but because it was still a little damp I didn't put on my new tyres until a little later in the second session. I believe they would have improved, and I don't think I could have taken pole position in the dry, but at the same time I think I could have been up there in 4th or 5th place, which is what we have been doing so far this year.

Q. Jean, this has been an action-packed weekend for you already, starting with the accident yesterday morning when your Sauber overturned ...

Jean Alesi: Yesterday I was not expecting a shunt like that, but to be starting from the front row tomorrow is a dream for me. It's the first time I have ever started so well in the French GP. I have never been in such a good position and for sure I am going to have a good chance now.

Q. How do you feel about the McLaren and Ferrari drivers who will be starting behind you, in some cases from quite a long way behind?

JA: In their position they won't be complaining about blue flags anymore. It will be interesting to hear what they say in the drivers' briefing tomorrow ... When you start as far in front as this, it is enough. They will just have to follow us!

Q. Olivier, congratulations on your best qualifying position since you started from 3rd place on the grid in Argentina in 1997. What is the significance of that on home soil?

Olivier Panis: This is a very good day for me and my team. With a French car, a French engine and a French driver there is a lot of pressure on us here. We worked hard this morning when the track was dry and it was quite difficult because I didn't take a fresh set of tyres. But every time I drive in the wet I have found the car not too bad. It is very driveable and in the wet the engine is very smooth. Tomorrow is another day, of course, and it is very important that we continue to improve the car. But I am particularly happy for Alain because he has been under so much pressure. Maybe tonight he will sleep better ...

Q. Will it be wet again tomorrow?

OP: I think so, yes. It is possible it will be wet tomorrow, but possibly not as wet as today. We would prefer that, because I have never seen conditions as bad as we had today. I have a big advantage to be in third place on the grid, but it will still be a difficult race for me.

Q. Rubens, who advised you about the weather? How did Stewart get the forecast right while all the big names got it wrong?

RB: The forecast which was given to the team said that it would rain in the morning and get even heavier at the start of qualifying. We didn't know anymore than that, so that's why we decided to go early. The good thing about today is what happened as a result of Monaco 1997, when Jackie Stewart gave me a [steel] Rolex watch for finishing 2nd. We have been getting good places this year in qualifying and races, so I told Jackie, 'it's not just watches anymore, what are you going to do?' And he said, 'look, if you stick the thing on pole I will give your wife a gold Rolex.' And it happened today, so I am pleased that Silvana gets the watch.

Q. Jackie is never short of a word. What was he saying to you after the session had finished?

RB: He remembered his promise about the watch. It's quite pleasing when a Scotsman remembers a bet. But he was so delighted for the team, and for me. He wanted to congratulate all the team and at first I didn't see him. It's strange, but we have quite similar emotions: when we are happy we both talk loudly. It's a surprisingly similar feeling between us.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Rubens Barrichello , Jean Alesi , Olivier Panis , Jackie Stewart
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Jordan