Johnny Herbert came to Indianapolis with high hopes of putting on a good show, but the reality has turned out to be disappointing so far. The Jaguar R1 did not seem at home on the Speedway infield, and that's where most of the time was lost....
Johnny Herbert came to Indianapolis with high hopes of putting on a good show, but the reality has turned out to be disappointing so far. The Jaguar R1 did not seem at home on the Speedway infield, and that's where most of the time was lost. Johnny plans to make a new career in America next year, and he could have done with a better performance to use as a calling card.
"I can't help it when I'm driving a car which is not really quick enough," he smiled. "That doesn't really help matters! We're both very lowly on the grid, and we're both together, but we're not really quick. It's very frustrating for the team and Jaguar, because obviously we've come here and wanted a good showing, and it's the worst showing of the year. Overall for the team it's not been too hot - it's been a very poor showing by us."
Johnny confirmed that the car is a real handful in the infield; the combination of fresh tarmac and hard tyres has proved very tricky to master.
"I think we're losing just everywhere at the moment. It's just a bit of everything, I think. The car is just very, very difficult to drive. It's very edgy, it's very difficult to get the corners right. You think you're too slow, and then you go too quick, and then you slide a lot. It's a bit difficult to say exactly how it is."
The big problem the team faces is finding the ideal compromise that suits both the road course section and the high speed stretch on the oval. "You keep putting wing on and when you get to a point when you put it on and you go slower, that's normally where you go back from that. I basically ended as I started. On the middle run I had more, but I thought it would be better as it was, so I put it back and did go marginally quicker again."
Now thoughts turn to the race, and the big unknown is how the cars will behave when running in groups on the banking. "I followed Frentzen, and that was not a problem," said Johnny. "We'll just have to be quick down the straights - that's all we can do. It's going to have to be very low downforce tomorrow, which should make for an interesting race..."
Jaguar Racing were looking for a top 10 qualifying position for the US GP, but as things turned out the team had to settle for 17th and 19th on the grid. Although the R1 seems to have enough straightline speed, both Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert struggled for grip through the important infield section. After qualifying at Indianapolis today, Adam Cooper spoke to technical director Gary Anderson about the problems the team has faced so far and the prospects for the race on Sunday.
Q: You must be disappointed with the results - what's the verdict?
"Yesterday, we didn't seem to be doing badly. We had a nervous rear end, and once we'd got that fixed we had understeer. The grip level on the infield is just so low. A lot of people have made mistakes because of the grip level, and we never really quite put that lap together. I don't know whether we should have run more wing at the end of the day; we looked alright speedwise."
Q: Where are you losing out?
"It's hard to tell really, but if you look at the speeds on the start/finish line there we're in the ballpark where we should be, with the right sort of people. We just never really got the car to suit the track, never really got enough out of it. A lot depends on how good your car is when you arrive at the track. Things we've done in the last six months haven't helped us."
Q: You did lots of simulations before you came. Has anything surprised you?
"No, not really. You can actually increase wing and the difference in lap time is small. The infield is a bit slippier than what we believed it would have been. That's why we've come from the level of wing that we had when we started here to a bit more - but not too dramatic. Most people did that, just because the infield tarmac was quite green. It's a balance of those two; the fast bit and slow bit."
Q: Are you happy with the performance on the oval section?
"The last section time is pretty reasonable, and the mid-section time is not that bad. The first section, that complex of corners down to the back straight, is really where we're losing most. It's the first four corners. The hairpins that follow are pretty reasonable, and the rest of it's not so bad. It seems as though you really need to tidy it up through the first bit."
Q: You said before you came that people would probably run less downforce in the race to assist with overtaking. Do you still agree with that?
"I'm not sure it will be as low as we thought initially. I thing we've been quite surprised at the speeds some of the other cars have been running down the straights, but it's about surviving the other bit. You've got to do that really – you need to stay on the road."