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2003 United States Grand Prix 
What the teams and drivers said - Friday  

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Drivers Championship Constructors Championship
Reports & Results

What the teams and drivers said - Friday

Renault ( Jarno Trulli - 1st, Fernando Alonso - 7th )

Pat Symonds: "Jarno put in a fantastic lap to take a well-deserved provisional pole position. With the possibility of rain tomorrow morning, and drier conditions later, the fact that Jarno will be last to run could prove a decisive advantage. The balance on Fernando's car has improved throughout the day, but is still not quite where he would like it, hence his lower position. If it is dry tomorrow, it should be no problem to fine-tune the set-up, and even if it is wet, we have enough data to get very close."

Denis Chevrier: "A superb first place for Jarno this afternoon, which is the result of all the elements of our package functioning at their optimum. Having said that, the gap between our two drivers illustrates how important it is to have everything working right in order to fight with our usual rivals. We will continue working this evening and with everything we have learned today, I believe we will be very competitive during the rest of the weekend."

Jarno Trulli: "Of course, I am extremely happy with this result. Everybody did a very good job this morning, and this result is based on that good work during testing and practice. I was happy with the handling of the car straight away this morning, and we seem to be very fast. Looking ahead, I am very confident for the rest of the weekend."

Fernando Alonso: "No dramas for me on the timed lap. I have been suffering from understeer all day, and that improved slightly on low fuel for this afternoon's qualifying session. Overall, I think we did a good job this morning and Jarno has shown that the car is competitive here. We still have some work to do on set-up, but with the information we gained this morning, I think we will be strong for tomorrow and Sunday."

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Ferrari ( Rubens Barrichello - 2nd , Michael Schumacher - 8th )

Jean Todt: "We did not get to do much work in the dry because of the rain during free practice. It seems that, in the wet and thanks to the Bridgestone tyres, we have an edge over our rivals, while in the dry, we can expect a very close fight between the top teams. Once again, Michael paid the price for being first out on track: this time the surface was still a bit damp, but all in all, his time puts him very close to his closest rivals in the title fight. Rubens did a great job, only beaten by a driver who made his run after him, when track conditions were much better. Given that the forecast is for unpredictable weather tomorrow, anything could happen in qualifying. Only tomorrow afternoon will we have a clearer picture of the situation."

Ross Brawn: "Obviously the conditions were changing during the session, with the track getting faster after every run in the dry. Michael had to cope with making the first run in the dry, after morning rain had left the track 'green' and dirty. But as todayís times only serve to establish tomorrowís running order, there is no cause for concern. Both drivers are quite happy with their cars, although the rain prevented us from doing much tyre testing. We have only tried one of the dry types of tyre and will have to do an assessment of both tomorrow."

Rubens Barrichello: "Overall, I am happy with this result. The car went well and I was lucky to be out on track when the conditions had improved. Theoretically, second place gives me a very good start position for tomorrow afternoonís qualifying, but the unpredictable weather could change everything. We still have some work to do on the car set-up in the dry, given that we only managed two runs in the dry before the rain arrived this morning."

Michael Schumacher: "Once again, the early runners in qualifying were slightly disadvantaged, especially after the rain which fell in the morning, which meant the track was a bit dirty and lacked grip. This goes some way to explaining my time and position. However, if you look at the times set by Rubens and Ralf, it is clear that the situation is very close between us and our main rivals. As we expected, we look competitive. This morning in the dry, I was quite happy with the performance of the car, even though the rain meant we cannot draw too many conclusions about set-up. Hopefully, we can all run in the same track conditions tomorrow and have a good fight for the front row."

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Jaguar ( Mark Webber - 3rd, Justin Wilson - 18th )

Dr Mark Gillan: "An excellent lap by Mark, especially since it began raining very lightly just as he left the garage. Justin, however, was unlucky to have been on the receiving end of the heavy showers and given that he has never raced around this circuit, he did a pleasing job in what were very difficult conditions. We learned a considerable amount this morning and for Justin in particular, the track time was invaluable.
We would prefer a dry race on Sunday but given how changeable the weather has been, we are prepared for all conditions. The pace of the Jaguar R4 is pleasing and the car's balance in the infield section is particularly good -- a point proved by Mark's second sector time which was less than a tenth slower than the fastest time set by Jarno Trulli. Overall, a pleasing start to the weekend but a long hard slog is ahead of us if we are to add to our points tally this weekend."

Mark Webber: "I'll take that! Given that our low fuel runs this morning were compromised by the rain, qualifying was the first real stab in dry conditions and it was a little difficult to judge the braking point at turn one. The car however felt very good and while it was a little greasy in places, the overall lap was clean, tidy and very pleasing in the end. We have been consistently quick over one lap this season but the bigger picture for us is Sunday and that's what we are really concentrating on.
The race set-up is critical and we will work hard to prepare ourselves for what will be a hard race. We didn't have the best weekend here last year and the progress Jaguar has made in twelve months has been nothing short of impressive, albeit we still have a good climb ahead of us before we are truly satisfied. A good start to what will no doubt be a long weekend and hopefully, a productive one for all concerned."

Justin Wilson: "At some point my luck has to change but obviously not today. Mark set a brilliant time on his qualifying lap and while I had a few niggles to contend with this morning, my overall feeling going into qualifying was good, albeit until the rain gods arrived. The team took the correct decision to switch to full wet tyres but there was little I could do out there today apart from setting a clean lap. The car felt quite good but in those conditions, it was impossible to make an impression on the pace. Tomorrow's qualifying session will dictate the order for Sunday and all I can do is hope for a fair crack at the whip unlike today."

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Williams ( Ralf Schumacher - 4th, Juan Pablo Montoya - 5th )

Sam Michael: "The circuit appeared to get faster for the first ten cars before the rain came, which makes it a bit difficult to assess the lap times. However, we have had a good first day and have now some work to do on the race set-up. We are confident about taking the challenge to the front in tomorrow's qualifying session."

Mario Theissen: "Today's qualifying was strongly affected by changing weather conditions. The second half of the field had to run on a wet track . Both of our drivers ran in fairly good conditions which will allow them to start tomorrow's final qualifying in the top five. If the weather remains consistent these should be good start positions for the qualifying. BMW has done a further step on the engine side for Indy and Suzuka and both cars had a trouble-free day."

Ralf Schumacher: "I am reasonably happy with what we have achieved today and I feel reasonably well too. My lap wasn't very good, I braked too late into turn one due to some understeer. It's a shame we couldn't find the optimum balance this morning, but we had very little running in dry conditions. However, it's still very encouraging for tomorrow. I believe we have the strongest package, no doubt about it and it's going to be a very tough race for Ferrari if they want to win."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "It was a bit of a gamble to know if the set-up of the car was ok for qualifying, since this morning I didn't get much running in the dry. I lost a bit of time in a couple of corners because I braked too early. However, I hope it will be dry tomorrow and on Sunday notwithstanding the fact that Michelin has brought here some very competitive wet tyres. I am very pleased with my car, I think we've got a very good package for this weekend, I wasn't the quickest today but I am in front of my main rivals and this is the most important thing."

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McLaren ( David Coulthard - 6th, Kimi Raikkonen - 9th )

Ron Dennis: "The ever changing weather is reflected in the current qualifying positions. Our weather forecasters predict better conditions for the rest of the weekend, which I'm sure will suit most of the field."

Norbert Haug: "A qualifying session which didn't provide a real picture of everybody's competitiveness as the track became faster and faster with every lap before the rain started. However the three World Championship contenders are reasonably close in fifth, eighth and ninth places."

David Coulthard: "We only managed to do one proper run on dry tyres in this morning's practice before it started to rain, so qualifying was a bit of a journey into the unknown. It was spitting with rain as I was starting my lap, which always makes you a bit apprehensive. I went a bit sideways in the last corner before the start, so there is still room for improvement. However unde the circumstances I think it was a reasonable result and I look forward to tomorrow."

Kimi Raikkonen: "I'm not too worried about today's result as the car felt good despite us only having limited running in the morning due to the rain. In addition I didn't do a very good lap and had a moment early on, so I'm sure we will do better tomorrow."

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BAR ( Jenson Button - 10th, Jacques Villeneuve - 16th )

David Richards: "After a promising start to the day our qualifying positions are somewhat disappointing. There is certainly room for improvement but the weather looks certain to have a hand in the outcome this weekend."

Shuhei Nakamoto: "The on-off rain played a big part in the times today. Who knows what will happen tomorrow - it might be our turn to benefit from the conditions."

Geoffrey Willis: "This is a disappointing first qualifying session for us, despite a stronger first session. The car was reasonably competitive this morning, particularly when the rain started to fall and we were able to use our wet tyres. This afternoon, Jenson's car wasn't working well and was suffering from very low grip. We considered using the other tyre with Jacques but unfortunately just prior to his run, it rained very heavily forcing him out on wets. We're confident that we can improve the car overnight and qualify in a stronger position tomorrow."

Jenson Button: "Not a great first qualifying for me. I didn't really make any mistakes and the car balance is good, but there was very little grip and we just seemed to be slow today. We worked through our tyre options this morning but I think we made the wrong choice for qualifying. There's definitely room for improvement during the rest of the weekend but it looks likely that the weather is going to play a big part."

Jacques Villeneuve: "For the second time this year I went out just as the rain started to fall and in those conditions there's nothing you can do. You still drive as hard as you can but you know you're going to be slow and way down the timesheet. The car is quite good in the wet and we did some laps in the rain this morning, but there's no way you can get close to the times set by those who were running on a dry track. Wet weather makes qualifying a bit of a lottery and if it continues tomorrow then it only takes a few seconds to make the difference between a good or bad grid position. If it's wet for everyone then I think we have reason to be optimistic."

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Toyota ( Cristiano da Matta - 11th, Olivier Panis - 14th  )

Ange Pasquali: "The weather has been very unpredictable all day, but unfortunately we got caught out on our qualifying runs this afternoon. Cristiano set a very commendable eleventh fastest time, despite damp track conditions. Olivier had the worst of the rain as he embarked on his flying lap, but had a trouble-free run to take fourteenth. Luckily, we managed to get some laps in the dry this morning and we are pleased with what we achieved. Now, we will look to continue in a positive way tomorrow morning as we prepare for final qualifying."

Cristiano da Matta: "It's great to be racing here at the Speedway this weekend, although the weather could be better. We performed quite well in this morning's practice and the car seems to handle pretty well at this track. I am not too concerned with the outcome of this afternoon's qualifying session because we were unlucky with the rain on our run, so we cannot really read anything into the times. In the wet-dry conditions this morning, I wasn't able to learn the track completely, so I hope we can get some good running in the dry tomorrow."

Olivier Panis: "We were not at all lucky with the weather conditions in qualifying today. It started to rain heavily on my run and I did the best I could in the circumstances. I was very happy with our performance in free practice this morning. We showed that we have a good car for this track and we were quite competitive, setting the third fastest time. I am still confident for the rest of the weekend - all we need is a bit of luck with the weather!."

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Jordan ( Giancarlo Fisichella - 12th, Ralph Firman - 17th )

Gary Anderson: "Fisichella had a problem with a split gearbox oil cooler which lost him a lot of time in testing although he was able to do a reasonable job at the end of the session. It was Ralph's first time back since his accident and he did a competent job, learning the track pretty well in both the wet and the dry and he got up to speed okay.
BjŲrn also did a good job with some tyre testing and adding to his F1 experience. His biggest handicap was probably me engineering his car as our test car engineer had to go back to the UK! Giancarlo had an engine failure early on in Free Practice which lost him most of that session as well and hurt his qualifying because we had a few things we wanted to try but never got them done.
Qualifying was a bit disappointing but that was mainly down to the weather and also Giancarlo had to go out with a lower performance step engine. We took a gamble with Ralph's tyres and sent him out on extreme wets, which is always difficult in these conditions. We did the best we could, and hopefully Sunday will be wet and we'll get something out of it."

Giancarlo Fisichella: "I didn't get enough laps in the morning, because I had a problem with the gearbox oil tank in testing and an engine blow-up during free practice. As I lost most of today's track time there wasn't enough time to do all the work we wanted on set-up. Considering that, qualifying was okay, the last part of the circuit was a bit damp when I went out. I hope we have these wet conditions again on Sunday."

Ralph Firman: "It's great to be driving the car again and I'm feeling fine. I was a bit unlucky with the timing of the rain in the qualifying session but hopefully it will do the same tomorrow! I think perhaps the deep grooved tyres weren't the best choice and the intermediates would probably have been quicker. It was good experience for tomorrow."

Bjorn Wirdheim (Test Driver): "Today was quite good. I like the circuit as although it is simple it is also quite technical. We were doing a lot of work for the race, it was nice to work with Gary Anderson and I hope I helped the team be better prepared for the weekend. It took a bit of time to get to know the circuit and I was running with quite heavy fuel loads until the very end of the test session. It was my second time in the car so I think I just need a bit more experience to be able to get the most out of it."

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Sauber ( Heinz Harald Frentzen - 13th, Nick Heidfeld - 15th )

Peter Sauber: "Rain yes, but please let's have it for everyone! Heinz-Harald ran on dry tyres but during his lap it started to rain. Nick was the first driver to leave the pits with wet tyres. These were certainly far from ideal conditions but considering that, the performance of both drivers was very good."

Heinz Harald Frentzen: "By the second and third sector of my lap the rain had set in and the track was soaked. I was on dry tyres, which therefore weren't ideal for these conditions. Obviously I wasn't able to attack. However, I can say that the car felt better than it did this morning, when we had some problems with the balance."

Nick Heidfeld: "I think it's quite impossible to have more bad luck! It started to rain just before I left the pits and so I was the first driver on the wet track after the break. Usually we are quick in the rain, but not under these conditions."

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Minardi ( Nicolas Kiesa - 19th, Jos Verstappen - 20th - No Time )

Paul Stoddart: "Despite todayís changeable conditions, it was a useful day for the team, and in particular for Nicolas, as it was the first time he had ever experienced the awesome power of a Formula One car in the wet. Sadly, Josís car suffered an electronics problem on the out lap, which prevented him from completing his qualifying run. Nicolas, however, recorded a very creditable time when one considers he had never driven a single lap on extreme weather tyres in his life. We gained some useful data today, and look forward to the rest of the weekend."

Nicolas Kiesa: "It was difficult to decide on the best strategy for qualifying. It was the first time I had driven an F1 car in full wet conditions and I didnít know what to expect. I wanted to set the best possible time, but I didnít want to push so hard as to risk going off, as I needed the experience of the full lap. In addition, with Jos not able to complete his qualifying run, I didnít have any sort of benchmark to work with. In the end, I didnít push hard enough, but I also know where significant improvements can be made. I also know the oval section of the track can be taken flat, even in the wet. By the end of this morning, we had a really good car for the dry conditions and I felt we had a realistic chance of challenging one or two of our nearest rivals in qualifying. Still, weíve now got a good wet set-up as well, which we may be able to improve further tomorrow."

Jos Verstappen: "Initially the car didnít feel particularly good this morning, and as a result, we changed a lot, which lost us time. A spring change improved the situation, but on what should have been my fastest run in the two-hour test session, the car stopped with a fuel pick-up problem. We changed the brakes for the one-hour practice session, as they had been locking quite badly, and I was reasonably happy with the balance of the car in the wet conditions. Unfortunately, the engine wouldnít pick up in qualifying, and I failed to set a time, which is pretty disappointing. Weíll just hope for a better day tomorrow."

Gianmaria Bruni: "Primarily, we carried out tyre comparison work this morning, doing one long run as part of the programme to check degradation. We didnít get the chance, however, to do a low fuel run on the tyres. Iím very pleased with todayís outcome and I feel I did a good job for the team. The PS03 chassis had a good balance throughout the session, and Iím happy with the lap time I achieved, especially since it was my first time at Indianapolis. Iím now looking forward to the future, and perhaps being able to race for Minardi."

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