Pole position press conference 1. Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:42.950 2. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Jordan-Mugen Honda 1:43.000 3. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes) 1:43.288 Q. Mika, that was not just your eighth pole ...
Pole position press conference
1. Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:42.950 2. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Jordan-Mugen Honda 1:43.000 3. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes) 1:43.288
Q. Mika, that was not just your eighth pole position of the season, but also the 100th-ever pole for McLaren. Does that make it special for you?
Mika Hakkinen: Yes, particularly on a day like this, at Hockenheim, on a day which has significance for all of us, but particularly for Mercedes. It was extremely enjoyable today to have a fight for pole position, and the times were close, just as they should be. It was very fine qualifying.
Q. Is it a lot more fun to be fighting for pole with someone from another team and not just with your colleague David Coulthard?
MH: As Heinz says, it's more colourful. But it doesn't really make an enormous difference.
Q. But five hundredths of a second in front of Heinz-Harald is leaving it a bit close, don't you agree?
MH: Yes, it is. In reality it should have been a wider gap, because things were going extremely well on my second last run -- until the second corner from last. Somebody had put a lot of sand there and when I arrived there was no grip whatsoever, and I lost three tenths of a second. So I am really happy to be on pole after all. I won't say I was lucky, but it would have been a quicker lap if it hadn't been for that dust. Definitely.
Q. This morning you stopped on the circuit for a while. What happened there?
MH: I thought I had a gearbox problem, so I stopped and called in by radio to check things. It was OK, though, and I continued. Actually, I went faster after that.
Q. I understand that this circuit can be very abrasive on tyres. How do you plan to handle that problem?
MH: We have chosen the harder compound this weekend, so that should be OK. Did I say I was on the harder tyre? No, I wouldn't say that! But as you know, when an F1 car is carrying light downforce, then the wheels tend to slide a lot and you get a lot of wheelspin. That takes a lot out of the tyre, grip levels get less and it can be a problem. That's why it comes down to the drivers and engineers to find the best possible balance in the car, to keep the tyres in good condition all the way through the race.
Q. Are brakes a worry for you this weekend?
MH: The brakes are always under very high stress here. So far we are very pleased with ours.
Q. Heinz-Harald, you're five hundredths of a second behind Mika and for several minutes this afternoon you held the provisional pole position. You must be pleased to have been second today ...
HHF: Sure, this performance is more than we expected. As I mentioned here on Thursday, we knew we would be more competitive here than we had been in Zeltweg. We had a good test at Monza, where the car worked well with low downforce. Yesterday we were 17th, which didn't look like a promising result, but for some reason the other people were running on low fuel levels while we concentrated on our homework. It was only this morning that I realised that the car was quite competitive on low fuel levels. We made some improvements which improved the car a little bit at a time. I am very proud of the team's efforts as well as of my own performance. I am happy to have split the McLarens here at Hockenheim, my home circuit, in fact I feel very good today.
Q. You mentioned a new version of the Mugen engine ...
HHF: We have had a new engine here for qualifying -- one which we haven't run actually. We have only run the new race engine at Monza, and this one is also an improvement. Overall we have a very strong package -- and after a couple of years here I have finally found my way around this track. It had always been my dream to be quick here at Hockenheim, and now I am on the front row here for the first time. We worked hard on finding the right setup and I am very happy that we achieved it together. I have to say the team has done a superb job. They helped me to find a good setup and they made a lot of improvements to the car.
Q. Your compatriots will want to know whether you have a chance of winning the race tomorrow. What is your opinion on that?
HHF: Well it's not impossible. We are on the hard tyres as well. But the McLarens have a very strong race pace. Yesterday we were also running on race configuration and the car felt generally alright, although it was very difficult to make any comparison with other people if they were running on low fuel levels. But if the car is good in qualifying, I guess it should be alright in the race.
Q. David, you ran off the circuit at the end of the first run, then you came back to the pits and switched to the spare car. What happened there?
David Coulthard: Between the first and second chicanes a piece of tread came off the tyre. So that was quite an attention-grabbing moment because when the tread flies off it makes the car handle very strangely. First I just heard a sort of flapping noise, then the rear end started moving around, so I thought I had broken the suspension. That's why I kept going straight. When I came back there was some damage to the floor and top sections of the bodywork, so I went out in the spare car. But the guys then managed to fix the damage, which allowed me to go out in my race car again. They did a good job.
Q. Were you slowed by traffic on your best lap?
DC: No, best lap was traffic-free. But the track conditions had changed a little by the end of the session, and I now feel that I would definitely have benefited from going for a second attempt in the original car straightaway after the first run. But as I explained, that wasn't possible. I am a little disappointed to find myself behind Heinz, but it is obvious that he did a very good job today. As we suspected, it is very close out there.