Q: Superb last run, but it was the first time that you've been at the top of the time sheets; have you been sandbagging? David Coulthard: No, not at all. I made a mistkae on Thursday by touching the barrier at Tabac and I lost a bit of time in...
Q: Superb last run, but it was the first time that you've been at the top of the time sheets; have you been sandbagging?
David Coulthard: No, not at all. I made a mistkae on Thursday by touching the barrier at Tabac and I lost a bit of time in that second session and also it takes your confidence away a bit because you just can't afford to hit a barrier. Then I was just playing to catch-up after that. I was into qualifying and I said to my engineers that I hadn't actually completed the last sector quickly at any point during this weekend, so it was going to be interesting in qualifying. I overdid it on one lap but all the rest were pretty tidy and the lap time came from there.
Q: You've beaten the all-time lap record around here by 0.8s; what's it like to drive these new cars with the new technology around here?
DC: It's very difficult because where it helps you in some areas, it puts you arriving at the corners a lot faster so the cars are still tricky to drive. I think that in qualifying I'm not sure that it gives you that much over the lap because of the fresh tyres but I think it's probably more consistent and safer in race conditions.
Q: Mika, right up the end it looked as if you would be getting pole, but it seemed to go wrong on that last run; what happened?
Mika Hakkinen: Well, we made a small change to the car and I was not sure at the moment if it was the right thing to do, but you have to try because the times were so close and Michael was at that time quickest, so we needed to try to do something extra. Let's say it worked quite well for half the lap but then when I was in the last sector, I got quick big understeer in the second last corner and couldn't get the front end to grip so lost a couple of tenths. That was it. It was a shame that we didn't get the front row for the McLarens in this Grand Prix.
Q: You've had more track time that David; have you got a good race set-up?
MH: I'm confident indeed. I think both cars have a good race set-up at the moment and we can be very optimistic for tomorrow's Grand Prix. I believe we're going to be very consistent and quick as long as we are patient.
Q: David, will you be using launch control and will everyone else be using launch control after the problems that we've seen in the last couple of races?
DC: Well obviously I don't know about the other systems and other cars but I think we're satisfied that we've managed to get the bugs out of the system and I think it was a very good move of Charlie Whiting and those running the weekend to allow us all to do practice starts because it takes away that uncertainty. I think it's great that Formula One is able to be adaptable to the situations and to go outside the timings to allow everyone to get their confidence in the systems.
Q: You couldn't wish for more from that session, could you David?
DC: I was at the front for the first couple of runs and the only thing that could have been better would have been to stay there for the whole of the session. When I started the last run, I knew from the sectors that the time was there, but I overdid it on my third run in the last sector, so when I found myself still up in time when I got to the end of the sector sector I really thought when I went into the swimming pool that providing no one else was quicker, you could get pole here, so just go where you know rather than searching. So there was potentially a little bit quicker time but it was just a matter of trying to finish the lap.
It was a good lap. I'm very happy because of all the places to qualify, I think Monaco is technically the most challenging in terms of precision. Other tracks on the calendar are obviously difficult places to qualify but to get the timing right, to avoid the traffic, and obviously a large part of luck involved in that rather than timing, then it makes it very satisfying when you're able to finish the lap and get the pole.
Q: How does you confidence come back?
DC: As I said earlier, I went into qualifying not really having finished the last part of the swimming pool, I felt I was pretty tidy out of the last corner, and not the swimming pool and entry to Rascasse so I didn't have a lot of confidence when I went into qualifying because I knew I was having to learn where the limit was during the session, but I think the decision made on tyres was a good way to do it to give the opportunity to feel the car a bit earlier in the lap and to maintain it through the lap.
Q: It looks very bumpy going into Tabac; does that affect you?
DC: I hadn't noticed the bumps at all until this year and then I really felt the bumps into turn one. I don't know if the track has become more bumpy than in the past or if it just a characteristic of the car but I watched in-car footage before I drove the car on Thursday again, it didn't look particularly bumpy, but it does seem to be into turn one mainly. Into Tabac I don't really notice it as much.
Q: Michael, your session seems to have been fairly active and lively? What happened with Bernoldi at the start?
Michael Schumacher: The two Arrows came out of the pits and didn't look in their mirrors good enough, so I had to abort the lap. My third run was clean. I don't think I had traffic. There was David but he gave me room. Otherwise there was no particular issue. It's just that you consistently work your way through your qualifying and you have to be there at the end of qualifying because the circuit is at its fastest then.
Q: Are you happy with the front row?
MS: Yes and no. I would rather be on pole than in second position, but obviously David did a better job than I did so we'll find out what we can do tomorrow.
Q: What about your last laps?
MS: I wouldn't say my last timed lap was perfect. As you saw from the next one, I was a tenth up in T1 but we don't know what would have been the end of it. And then when I arrived at Portier, I thought somebody was moving the barriers. Something strange, it was just too tight.
Q: Was pole a possibility today, Mika?
MH: It definitely was. What happened there was that the front tyres were so worn out that they lost grip in the last couple of corners, so I understeered quite a bit in the last sector so I lost a lot of time, so that was one of the reasons. So maybe the combination of new tyres front and rear was not ideal.
Q: How do you tackle tomorrow's race?
MH: From third position, the start is obviously very difficult indeed. I will be very happy if I can maintain the position where I am at the moment and take David and Michael at the start if they have a big problem. Then during the race, the performance of the cars is very close, so overtaking will be very difficult, so I will just have to stay very patient and have good tactics and hope all the luck is on our side.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: What combination of tyres did you use?
MS: Due to the way free practice ran this morning, I think it wasn't really a possibility to evaluate what was the right way and we had to do it in qualifying. I'm not so sure - to some extent, new-new is faster but then as Mika said, you're struggling in the last sector although you'd be a bit faster in the first sector. I'm actually not sure which was the fastest direction.
DC: I think that the way the tyres kept graining towards the end of the lap, new tyres should be quicker all round but my time was actually done on scrubbed fronts and new rears, only because you don't get the graining at the end of the lap, but you lose out a little bit in braking, especially down into the chicane.
MH: Well I was quite confident in the tyres and picked the best option to have. Also we didn't use so many tyres this morning so I was able to run four brand new sets and I still will have brand new tyres for tomorrow's race, but as I understand it, Michael and David won't have the option to have new tyres for qualifying unless they sacrificed tyres for the race.
Q: Have you been driving at a higher level this year, David?
DC: I've really just think that I've had a more reliable and consistent start to the season. Instead of being catch-up and trying to understand why we've been having problems if you just analyse the first seven Grands Prix of the past two or three season and you'll see a big difference in that I've been finishing race and that means that you're doing miles and gaining the confidence that goes with it.
Q: Have you now learned not to make mistakes?
DC: This question is tempting fate. It's got touch wood written all over it. I wished you hadn't asked me. I think that naturally both Michael and Mika hope that this will be the weekend that I make a mistake. I think with experience you learn a little bit about when it's just not sensible to try and push, when you've got problems and sometimes you just have to accept that that's the way it's going to be. I can't say with 100 per cent confidence that I've learned completely when that is yet, especially when you're going into a Monaco race, but we all make mistakes. All three of us sitting here and all the other guys out there make mistakes this year and it's just whether you make them at critical times or not and you have to expect that during the racing season, you're going to have a reliability problem at some point and you're going to drop the ball at some point. You hope not to, because it's obviously more embarrassing than the engine blowing up.