San Marino GP Saturday qualifying press conference

Grand Prix of San Marino Imola Saturday 1 May, 1999 Pole position press conference 1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:26.362s 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:26.384s 3. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:26.538s Q.

Grand Prix of San Marino Imola Saturday 1 May, 1999

Pole position press conference

1. Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:26.362s 2. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes), 1:26.384s 3. Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1:26.538s

Q. Congratulations, Mika, on the 13th pole position of your career. How worried were you by that challenge at the end from your team mate David Coulthard?

Mika Hakkinen: It was natural to be worried because I knew that David could go quicker on his final run. What I did not know was how much faster he could go, and he didn't have to go much quicker to have improved on my time. So when went back on the track just behind him [in the last few minutes] I was watching -- and he did an amazing run. The moment I saw him disappearing in the distance I was thinking he would do a good lap. Then I believe he got caught in the traffic and he lost his chance to do a quicker lap. But this was one of my best-ever qualifying [performances] and when I was sitting in the car, talking to the engineers about what happened today, it was an incredible emotion. At the Nurburgring in 1997, when I scored my first pole position, it was a great qualifying session. But this is something else. The times are all so close, it is amazing. For me personally, when you look at my performances on this track in the last couple of years, you will see that I haven't been able to get the qualifying position I wanted. I was hoping to be on pole position last year, but David was quicker. And although I was quicker this year, it was only by a tiny amount. So I am really happy.

Q. It is interesting that you were able to watch David's lap from so close. But what about your own final lap?

MH: When I started my final run, I knew I was pushing too hard. I overheated the tyres and I knew that sooner or later I would lose grip. I could also see the [partial] lap times were not so quick, so I decided to watch what was going to happen.

Q. The driving today has been spectacular. But can you drive like that under race conditions tomorrow?

MH: I think I will have to drive like that just to keep these two guys behind. But then tomorrow is another day and it might even rain. Certainly it is going to be a tough race. I am sure we will have to push very hard to maintain position. Let's see what happens.

Q. Do you feel that the McLaren-Mercedes team has overcome the reliability problems which you experienced in the first two races and in testing?

MH: I can only say that tomorrow will provide the only truthful answer. The people at the factory and all our engineers have worked extremely hard to try to understand exactly what has happened with the reliability. But there again, we won't know what is happening until the race tomorrow.

Q. David, in spite of being 2nd this year, you seemed to be enjoying that qualifying session ...

David Coulthard: (laughs) I always enjoy driving the car, though sometimes it is more difficult than it is on other occasions. But we have been competitive this weekend. Michael has been a little closer than would be comfortable, but I still knew that I had a car that was capable of taking pole position. And if you have that possibility, it is always enjoyable. But this time it slipped away and now I have to wait for tomorrow.

Q. Why did your chances slip away?

DC: I had to slow considerably for one of the BAR cars at the first of the two Rivazzas. It doesn't really matter now, because the positions can't be changed, but my in-car data shows that I lost three-tenths in that sector.

Q. As we have said, the driving today was spectacular. If Mika gets in front tomorrow, will it be possible for you to sit on his tail for lap after lap?

DC: The nature of the tyres means that we will be sliding quite a lot. But we will all drive at 100 per cent, and each driver reacts to the balance of his car and how the tyres are performing at any moment. Those elements decide how we can drive, but given that we have similar setups and the same straight-line speed it will be difficult for me to drive my way round Mika. Nevertheless, I will certainly be starting the race with the intention of winning it.

Q. You won here last year. Is this a circuit which you particularly like?

DC: There are no circuits that I don't like, there are just certain tracks where I happen not to have gone so well in the past. I do not view [racing] as a job, and therefore I don't think of some circuits as being ones that I do not like. Provided that I am fit and well, every day I get in a racing car I enjoy what I am doing. That has been my feeling about the sport for the last 17 years. I have a better record at this circuit than on some others, but it doesn't mean that I arrive here feeling happy. It is not a question of me being in love with Italy.

Q. Michael, you got so close, but you are still third. Are you frustrated not to have been able to make up the final few fractions?

MS: After Brazil, there's no point in being frustrated over being two-tenths off the pace. The only bit of frustration is that I did not do the job properly. I could have done the lap a little bit faster and been on pole. On the other hand, these guys might have gone faster too. We are reasonably happy with [the gap] at the moment because the race is a different story, it is over a long distance and strategy will [play a part]. I'm feeling optimistic about that situation and for the future as well.

Q. Do you believe that the gap will be as small as this at other circuits?

MS: I don't see any reason why not. Obviously there will be constant development going on. It depends then on who develops the car faster. There may be circuits which suit one car better than another, but it's difficult to foresee right now.

Q. Why wasn't your lap perfect?

MS: It is naturally difficult to get a 100 percent lap in here, because you are riding kerbs very hard. If you try to push a little harder, it can be a bit too much -- and then you lose it. That's basically what happened to me in the last run. But I had a couple of sectors in my second run which were quite good, but I couldn't [carry] them through for the third run, which was a good one. So there were one or two tenths that I lost. But from third position, with strategy and so on, the situation in the race is still pretty open.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Michael Schumacher , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren