Panasonic Toyota Racing suffered an extremely frustrating qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway, with Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher earning 13th and 15th spots respectively on the grid. The team arrived at the circuit with rain pouring and low cloud, in scenes reminiscent of the very first World Championship Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway in 1976. Final practice was delayed by 30 minutes because of the conditions and, when the session finally did start, only a few minutes of running were possible before the weather once more intervened. When qualifying began, Jarno and Ralf initially used extreme wet Bridgestone Potenza tyres but quickly switched to wets and both were quick enough to progress to Q2. However, Ralf collided with Sakon Yamamoto at turn 10 on his final lap, damaging his car and ruling him out of the next session. In Q2, Jarno set the 14th fastest time, although he moves up one place due to a penalty for a competitor. The team wi ll now work on strategy for tomorrow’s race and fight to get the best possible result.
Free Practice Session 3 3rd Lap Time: 1m 36.150s (+3.404s) Laps: 3
Q1 11th Lap Time: 1m 26.711s (+1.222s) Laps: 11
Q2 14th Lap Time: 1m 26.253s (+1.500s) Laps: 10
"We pushed as hard as possible. The first session was pretty good in terms of car balance and grip. The conditions were acceptable but there was a lot of spray. We started with a completely wet track but in the middle of the second session it dried up a bit. I was actually more competitive in the wet conditions than at the end with a drier track. Tyre wear and the tyre pressures getting a little high at the end of the session made it hard, even though the track itself was getting quicker if you look at other people’s lap times. We just couldn’t set a better time. It is unfortunate and certainly disappointing but we will just have to see what we can do in the race. I hope we can get a better result tomorrow."
Ralf Schumacher (Car 11, Chassis TF107/05) PROVISIONAL GRID: 15th
Free Practice Session 3 n/a Lap Time: No lap time Laps: 2
Q1 14th Lap Time: 1m 27.191s (+1.702s) Laps: 10
Q2 16th Lap Time: No lap time Laps: 0
"The conditions out there were not too bad but visibility was quite poor. In general it wasn’t a problem for us to drive but there was obviously not much grip and with the water on track there was a lot of spray. There’s not a lot to say about the incident with Yamamoto at the end of Q1. I thought he had seen me. He moved to the outside and seemed to decide fairly late to turn in – I guess he hadn’t seen me. I expected him to leave the door open and when he didn’t that was it really. The car felt okay so it was disappointing not to be able to take part in Q2. It will be hard from where we are on the grid but I will do my best and hopefully make up some positions."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis
"Conditions were not ideal today but they were the same for everyone. Our qualifying session did not go well from Q1, with Ralf’s crash. He spent most of the session in traffic and even considering that he was fast enough to make it into Q2. But he had a misunderstanding with Yamamoto on his last lap when he thought Yamamoto had seen him. So we lost Ralf, although the car is not badly damaged and it will be repaired for the race. Jarno also got into Q2 but on his last run the combination of tyre wear and pressures being a little bit too high meant he wasn’t able to improve sufficiently to go into Q3. That was it – a bad result obviously. For the race, there is a high risk of rain tomorrow so anything can happen and we will do everything we can to improve."