West McLaren Mercedes driver Mika Hakkinen will start Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix from fifth position after setting a time of 1:33.662 in today's qualifying session. David Coulthard's time of 1:33.916 puts him seventh on the grid. David will...
West McLaren Mercedes driver Mika Hakkinen will start Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix from fifth position after setting a time of 1:33.662 in today's qualifying session. David Coulthard's time of 1:33.916 puts him seventh on the grid. David will secure second place in the Drivers' World Championship, unless Barrichello wins the race and David finishes fifth or below.
'Obviously I would have preferred to be higher up the grid and that the gap to Michael was not so big. We were confident after this morning's practice, but it just seemed the other teams made a massive step forward and we didn't. The Suzuka circuit layout with its sweeping high speed corners requires a lot of front end grip, but we just couldn't get it right. We tried to modify the car during the session and did all the usual things, which should improve the car like dropping the ride height and modifying the tyre pressures, but it never gave us enough. The team will have plenty of work to do before the race to understand the situation and find a solution. However, as always the race is a different story and I don't expect there to be such a large gap. I'm confident that the engineers will find the right set-up and tactic and that we will be competitive tomorrow so I can start my break in a positive way.'
We knew before qualifying that certain factors might play the result into the competitions' hands, but I don't think we expected such a large gap. I'm not particularly concerned about second place in the Championship as long as I go out tomorrow and do my best. I have always struggled at Suzuka but I'm close to Mika and we will see what happens in the race, where I will be as motivated as ever.'
'Tomorrow will be another day and our performance should reflect the commitment that we put into finding the optimum race set-up. Even so, our qualifying should have been better.'
'Not the qualifying result we aimed for. In race trim I expect us to be definitely better.'
The first practice session this morning saw Mika setting the second fastest time with 1:35.043 whilst David was fourth with 1:34.424. At the end of the second session David was third with a time of 1:34.562 and Mika was eighth with his fastest time from the first session. Mika completed 26 laps and David 30.
Spare (Hakkinen): MP4/16-05