1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:17.514 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:17.886 3. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:17.922 Q. Well done, Michael. It has been suggested that the setup needs to be perfect round here to get a really...
1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:17.514
2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:17.886
3. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:17.922
Q. Well done, Michael. It has been suggested that the setup needs to be perfect round here to get a really good lap here. Was the setup of your Ferrari perfect today?
Michael Schumacher: On a circuit like this you always feel you can work harder to improve the setup. 'Perfect' is a different matter.
Q. But it felt pretty good?
MS: It felt pretty good, yes, but not perfect.
Q. Was it doing things you didn't like? What was it doing?
MS: Understeer. Oversteer. The usual things!
Q. Is the circuit technically challenging from your point of view?
MS: Quite, yes. It is demanding for a driver. You don't get much rest. It has a variation of corners. There are bumps and high speed/low speed corners. There's a bit of everything, which makes it difficult to find the optimum setup. Therefore it is challenging from that point of view, but also in the driving.
Q. How different is the race setup?
MS: Not so much, honestly. You don't really have the time maybe like you would on circuits where you can do pre-race tests which allow you to [work on] special qualifying or race setups. Here, you simply don't have that opportunity.
Q. Given the margin of 0.372 seconds separating you from David Coulthard in second place, this pole position must be particularly satisfying ...
MS: Yes. That's what you can say.
Q. No more than that? It's a large margin ...
MS: Yes, that's true. But qualifying is one thing, racing is another. We really want to get a good result in tomorrow. Afterwards, you forget about qualifying. You never know how much faster [the opposition] could have gone, and maybe I could have gone faster. All those questions will be answered tomorrow, actually.
Q. At one moment, coming out of the pits today, when Frentzen was coming up behind you, we saw you pull to one side almost completely off the road. If that was a problem today, won't it be much worse in the race?
MS: We won't need to do it tomorrow. In qualifying we have a sort of gentlemen's agreement to move over [in order to avoid blocking a competitor's quick lap], but although I saw the blue flags and I was watching the mirror, I couldn't see where the car was behind me. As I finally turned into the first corner I saw him, so then I moved almost on to the grass. But in the race, you go. You stay on your line, which is defined, and then you have to deal with things [in collaboration with] the guy behind, who has to make sure not to run into the back of the guy in front of him. It has never been a problem here in the past.
Q. David, you're second on the grid, but in some ways I imagine you must be pretty happy with that ...
David Coulthard: Well, the goal in qualifying is obviously to try to be quickest, and it gives you the most confidence to have that little margin of two metres or whatever it is at the start. But I tried today and wasn't able to go quick enough. You just have to be happy with what you've got and look forward to the race. That's it! If they gave points for qualifying, then I guess there would be more joy or sadness. But they don't ... Round here, a gap of 0.3 second is not such a wide margin [as you might think. There are so many corners in close succession here that if you get hooked up with your car, you're only able to make half a tenth at each corner. These are really small margins. It's on the more straightforward tracks, the ones with with big stops and wide turns with acceleration that we tend to be much closer together. It's on tracks like this, and Suzuka, where we have to get into a rhythm, that you will see the bigger margins. If we had done a slightly better job on the balance, we could easily have caught up.
Q. Was your car not totally well balanced for qualifying?
DC: It's not too bad relative to what I've had in balance here in previous years. We just had too much understeer for the first and middle sectors. The last sector was pretty straightforward: It was just a matter there of getting your braking right.
Q. Mika, you went out early, with quite a few changes, and failed to make a very quick time. That suggests you might have made a gamble that didn't come off. Was that the case?
Mika Hakkinen: We had some quite radical changes after the morning session, so we wanted to go out early after lunch to see how the car was going to handle. As you saw from the lap times, it wasn't that good. So it was good we did it. We improved the car all the way through qualifying and I was able to perform quite well at the end of he session. From that setup I believe we will be able to find something for tomorrow's race.
Q. Were you held up in the traffic jam at the very end of the session?
MH: Yes. I had Ralf and Rubens in front of me when we started the lap, and you will have seen on television how slowly everyone was going before we started our lap. I probably lost some time because of that. Then I probably also lost some time in the last sector on my final run. Otherwise I would have been easily on pole.
Q. Mika, with David and Michael on he front row, you will have the best view of the start. What do you think will happen tomorrow?
MH: (long pause and some laughter) Michael, what do you think? Don't do the normal, please! No, because David and Michael are such good friends, I feel sure they're going to handle the first corner really well.
Q. Michael, there were sections of the circuit where your car was clearly handling horribly today, skipping away from you in places and not getting the power down. The last time it looked as bad as this was in France, where you had some trouble with the rear tyres overheating. Were you having similar difficulties today?
MS: No, that's simply the nature of the circuit and the bumps. Perhaps our car reacts a little differently there. You can see this stepping-out in Turn 2 already, and in the last corner, so that's nothing to do with temperature, honestly. We did sophisticated tests after Magny-Cours to sort out the problems we had there, and we have got on top of that.
Q. In a few weeks we will have the first US Grand Prix in nine years. What do the three of you think about F1 going back to America, and how do you feel about racing at a place like Indianapolis?
MS: I haven't seen the circuit in detail. Looking at a map doesn't give you enough information on which to judge the circuit. But from my point of view I am very happy to go to America. It is a great country and we look forward to some great racing there. Once we start driving it will be racing as usual, of course. What I do love is the way the American people are, and the way you can live while you are there. There are great opportunities to take a vacation there, close by. I am looking forward to it.
DC: I have seen some video footage of the track, and it looks quite technical on the infield, quite challenging. That is contrasted by running out on to the main straight. I have heard various scary stories about the tyre pressures we will need to run to handle the constant high 'g' that we're going to have to pull through that section of the banked circuit that we're going to be using. I'm looking forward to it, especially since I heard they've already sold more than 200,000 tickets. Is it true they only charge a couple of bucks to get it? If so, maybe this is the race for which I should splash out and take all my family to ...
MH: I am looking forward to it because I did my first-ever Grand Prix in the United States, at Phoenix in 1991. It will be nice to go back to race in the States. We haven't seen the circuit yet, but I look forward to seeing what kind of welcome we get and what kind of following F1 gets from the public. This is all very important for the continuation of Formula 1. I hope it will be possible for us to have lots of overtaking and to see some exciting racing.