Luxembourg GP Pole Position press conference

Qualifying: 1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:18.561 2. Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), 1:18.907 3. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:18.940 Q. Congratulations, Michael, on your second pole position of the year. But it was only after...

Qualifying: 1. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:18.561 2. Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), 1:18.907 3. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:18.940

Q. Congratulations, Michael, on your second pole position of the year. But it was only after that early moment on the grass that it all started to go right for you today ...

MS: After this morning I was a bit surprised that the lap times were going down so quickly. We had some things in hand and we didn't expect things to go like that, but everything went well after that [mistake on the] first run. My back end overtook me when I went a bit too fast into that corner There was a reason for it, but afterwards I corrected things and it went OK.

Q. We saw you make a change of wing ...

MS: Yes, that was the change.

Q. Would it be true to describe the middle sector of the circuit as the one where engine power is more important than it is in the other two?

MS: It's not much of a difference when you compare it with the first or the third sectors on other circuits. There is one sector where you are accelerating uphill in a high gear. But when you compare the engines of the top teams I don't think there is a huge power difference. I certainly believe we are at the top end of peak power.

Q. With so much at stake here, you must be pleased that Ferrari has achieved the first all-red front row for several years. What are your feelings?

MS: There was quite a lot of excitement, even for me. I was sitting there cheering Eddie onwards, and the whole team was delighted to see him jump up to second place. It was the optimum we could have expected for tomorrow's race.

Q. Will having Eddie beside you make a difference to your plans for the race tomorrow?

MS: I don't know. First you have to get the start right, and that's not been as consistently easy for us this year as it has for this guy [Hakkinen] sitting beside me, or for David [Coulthard]. But I think we have improved that situation, so we should be better off tomorrow. And it is better to have Eddie sitting next to me on the grid than it would have been to have anybody else.

Q. What about your preparations for the race? You haven't been able to do much running in the wet here yet ...

MS: I don't think that matters. I find my personal line very [quickly] and it would have needed a lot of practice to [run in the wet]. In our view it would just have been a waste of tyres [to run in the damp]. There is supposed to be rain tomorrow, so we want to have everything in hand. We know what to do in the rain, and Eddie has done some good work on that for us. He wanted to run anyway and there was no point in having two cars running just for that reason, which would have wasted time and energy. I could have gone out if I had wanted to, but I didn't want to.

Q. Eddie, congratulations on your best ever qualifying position. It must be nice to know that you won't be looking at another car in the race ...

EI: Well, I've got to look at one! It always makes the start more difficult when you are on the front row, because you have no one against whom to gauge [yourself]. Or you don't have as many cars to gauge off and they always seem to be on the wrong side of the grid.

Q. Are you surprised at being second?

EI: Yes, a bit. The McLarens have really underperformed a lot more here than we expected, because the Benetton is right there with them. It doesn't seem to make sense. So while they have under-performed, I have been able to get the most out of myself and the car today. This morning I wasn't happy with the car, but I just kept going more and more in one direction and it helped me get rid of the understeer. I can't drive with understeer at all. We kept working to get rid of it and got it better and better.

Q. Did you find all that time just by eliminating the understeer?

EI: Yes, I can't stand understeer. It kills me. Today we still had it but we got rid of quite a lot of it.

Q. Has your job changed now that you are second on the grid?

EI: I will find out in the debrief what we are doing tomorrow. Obviously our number one concern is Michael winning the championship. That is what we will be aiming for.

Q. Mika, are you surprised at the way it has all worked out?

MH: Yes, I'm surprised to be third. It didn't go exactly as we wanted it to go.

Q. What was the reason?

MH: Particularly on the last run, my [times through the] second and last sectors could have been better. It could maybe have put me on the front row. But even then I was not 100 per cent happy with the car. We were working on it, but we were still not able to get it 100 percent. On the last run I was aiming for the right direction but still not 100 percent.

Q. Why were you faster than Schumacher in the first sector and slower in the second sector?

MH: As I said, the car is not 100 per cent through some of those corners in that sector. I lost a lot of time and was not able to carry the speed around the corner where I wanted to carry it.

Q. Is it the same situation in race conditions?

MH: Race conditions are a little bit different, but in race configuration you normally experience very similar problems to those you experience in qualifying.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Michael Schumacher , Mika Hakkinen
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Benetton Formula