An interview with Patrick Carpentier Cristiano da Matta Christian Fittipaldi Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We'll go ahead and get started with our top-three press conference following provisional qualifying...
An interview with
Cristiano da Matta
Part 1 of 2
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We'll go ahead and get started with our top-three press conference following provisional qualifying for Sunday's CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. We'll begin with Christian Fittipaldi, to my immediate left, driver of the #11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone. He was third quickest in today's session with a best lap of 1:07.436 seconds, a speed of 120.541 miles per hour. Christian has yet to earn a top-three starting spot in his six previous visits here to Mid-Ohio, although he does have a podium finish of third to his credit, that coming in the 2000 event.
Christian, if you would, talk about your qualifying effort today. It seemed like it was tough for everybody to get a clear lap out there today.
Christian Fittipaldi: I think it's pretty obvious when people wait until the very last minute and they go out. They have a huge domino effect I would say. And to be quite honest with you, it isn't anyone's fault. But at the end of the day it is, because everyone is screwing everyone's lap out there.
If I have a car in front of me that's slowed down because of two cars that are in front of him that also slowed down, it creates a huge chain reaction, and there's nothing you can do. So I think everyone should be mad at everyone right now, unless if you're slowing down, you should get out of the way. That's what common sense tells you. But unfortunately, it doesn't go that way.
No one is playing that game out there. I'm not doing it. Shorty's [da Matta] not doing it. None of the other 16, 17 drivers out there are doing it. So this is what happens in such a turbulent session.
On the first run, I had to pass people on my quickest lap, so the whole day I never did two laps in the row where the tires got better. Without touching the car, there's a lot more yet to come. I'm pretty sure the young man here [da Matta] is going to say the same thing because there's a lot more in his car as well.
We'll wait and see until tomorrow. I'm pretty happy. The car ran well this morning. I think we're going to be up there again tomorrow.
Merrill Cain: Our CART FedEx Championship Series point leader Cristiano da Matta qualified second in provisional qualifying session. Driver of the #6 Havoline Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone, he claimed the second spot in today's session, putting up a lap of 1:07.095 seconds, a speed of 121.154 miles per hour.
Cristiano will be looking to earn his best ever starting spot in Mid-Ohio. He's yet to earn a grid position in the first three rows in any of his previous three starts. As we mentioned, the series points leader, Cristiano, has won three consecutive poles and five of the last six poles overall.
Cristiano, if you could talk about your qualifying effort today.
Cristiano da Matta: I think everybody is probably going to be complaining about the same kind of things. But as Christian was saying, it's a game you play. You wait until the very end for the better track. You got more traffic. You might get a red [flag].
Of course, we don't have a crystal ball to see when the track is going to be clear or not. But today happen exactly the same thing that happened in Vancouver two weeks ago on the Friday session when everybody went out on the same time with like 20 minutes to go, and then everybody still had two runs to do with 20 minutes to go. Of course, that makes the track very busy. I'm sure everybody is going to be complaining about the same thing, clear laps and all.
But, of course, I felt like I had the car to fight for pole, and I think somebody told me I was on pole until 15 seconds to the red flag. So I'm not happy with my grid position, but on the other hand I'm very happy with my car, very happy with the engine and very happy the way everything has been working for us this week.
We just have to try to find a better way, not only us, but everybody together, to play this qualifying a smarter way.
Merrill Cain: Thanks, Cristiano.
We're joined now by Patrick Carpentier, driver of the #33 Player's/Indeck Ford/Cosworth/Reynard/Bridgestone. He wins the provisional pole for Sunday's race with a best effort of 1:07.040 seconds, a speed of 121.253 miles per hour. He earns one championship point and guarantees himself a front row starting spot. The point gives Patrick 73 points in the season and moves him to within one point of Bruno Junqueira and Michel Jourdain, Jr., who are tied currently for third with 74 points.
Pat, it has to be a great feeling for you. As we were talking, there's been a lot of speculation concerning your future. I guess this provisional qualifying effort couldn't have come at a better time for you.
Patrick Carpentier: I'm pretty happy. I've been lately out of many teams and into many other teams. Actually, none of that's happening right now. We'll see what's going to happen.
But I'm really happy today. Like Cristiano said, sometimes you need a bit of a break to get it. And we put a good lap in. When passed the start/finish line, I heard "P1, P1." Then the next thing I heard, "Red flag." I said, "Am I still P1?" They said yeah. That was it.
I'm really happy. It gives me a front row start for the race tomorrow. I know it's going to be a really long race. They lengthened it a little bit. It's going to be important to be at the front. Team Player's did a good job. My engineers changed the car completely from this morning to this afternoon. They made the right decision. So it was good.
Merrill Cain: The red flag that prematurely ended the qualifying session came about with a 1:30 left on the clock.
We'll open it up for questions for our top-three provisional qualifiers.
Q: How is the track and has the surface come into play?
Cristiano da Matta: In Vancouver, we were more worried than here. In Vancouver, of course, you're hitting all kinds of curbs. This track is not a track that uses a lot of curbs, so you don't have the same kind of needs.
Q: What do you thin the pole time will be in tomorrow's final qualifying session?
Cristiano da Matta: Well, 1:05 seems pretty far away right now. It's strange. This track, I think it changes so much sometimes from one day to the other. When we tested here like one month ago, we did like 1:06.0. Today with the same car, we are doing 1:07.0. It's just one second off with different in the car.
It depends so much in the track. Of course, there's a lot of others series running here as well, so it puts lots of different rubber down on the track. We never know exactly if that's going to be good or bad for us.
Historically, usually there's a big improvement on the track on the second day of qualifying.
Christian Fittipaldi: I think pole time tomorrow is going to be between 1:06.0 and 1:06.5
Cristiano da Matta: Don't go faster than that (laughter).
Patrick Carpentier: I don't know what it's going to be tomorrow. We tested here. There was a lot of rubber. We ran 1:05.7 during the test. I'm not sure we're going to be as fast tomorrow. I think Christian is right about the time, I think it's going to be up at the front tomorrow.
Q: Was Bruno [Junqueira] upset after the session? We saw him come over and talk to a few people.
Patrick Carpentier: I have no idea why Bruno came to me pissed off like that. I think it was Kenny [Brack] that was in front of me that kept slowing down to get a gap, so I did the same thing. I was trying to slow down to get a gap. My team said that there was no space available behind me. So I was just trying to get a gap early on.
At the end, I just ran all my laps as fast as I could to try to do the lap time. So I'll have to look at the tape because I didn't see. Maybe I blocked him, maybe I did not. I have to look at it, I don't know.
Christian Fittipaldi: Adding to that question a little bit, I think everybody is wrong. There isn't one driver out there that is right. If you're slow, you have to get out of the way. But no one wants to lose their track position. And that's why people keep on running and slowing everyone else.
I would love to have that performance, but unfortunately we don't have any tire warmers in the series. It's impossible for you to post your time, your quick time, on the first lap. If we did have tire warmers in the series, it would make qualifying a lot nicer to watch because everyone knows that once you went out of the pits, it would be only one lap and then in. I can guarantee you we wouldn't have half of these traffic problems that we have right now because right now we need to build a pace for us to do a lap.
Top three press conference, part II