|Honda-powered driver Giancarlo Fisichella qualified on row three of the grid for tomorrow's Canadian Grand Prix. The Lucky Strike B.A.R Hondas of Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis will line up in ninth and 11th positions on the fifth and sixth rows respectively, separated by just three tenths of a second, while Takuma Sato qualified his Jordan Honda in 15th position (eighth row).
Fisico on the track, qualifying
All four Honda-powered drivers waited almost 20 minutes before taking to the track for saturday's qualifying session in Montreal. Jordan Honda's Giancarlo Fisichella set his best time of 1m14.132s on his fourth and final outing, improving on his first timed lap by five tenths of a second and securing sixth position on the grid, the best qualifying position for a Honda-powered F1 driver and car so far this year. B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve improved his lap times steadily throughout the session, setting his best time of 1m14.564s on his third outing, improving on his initial timed lap by almost a second, placing him ninth on the grid. On his final set of three laps the Canadian driver's qualifying session came to an end as he had a suspected engine problem and span onto the grass at the pitlane exit.
Villeneuve walking back into the pits
B.A.R Honda's Olivier Panis' qualifying session was not quite as eventful as his team-mates, the Frenchman completing four sets of three laps. Panis set his best time of 1m14.713s on his second outing, which was an improvement of eight tenths of a second on his first run, and placed him in 11th position. Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato recorded his fastest lap of 1m14.940s on his second outing before suffering an engine failure. The spare car had been set up for Fisichella so the Jordan mechanics worked fast to make the necessary changes to the car for Sato as he ran back to the pits. With 10 minutes to go the Japanese rookie was back out on track, but he did not manage to improve on his best lap and will start tomorrow's race from 15th position.
Panis trying to get a better Qually time!
Shuhei Nakamoto, Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development
"All four Honda-powered drivers did a good job today and Giancarlo and Jacques did well to secure third and fifth row grid positions, so I think both teams will have a chance to fight for points tomorrow. Takuma stopped running because of engine failure and it looks like Jacques' engine had a problem as well, so I'm disappointed about that. As soon as we can get to look at the engines properly we'll find out what caused the problems. I also think Olivier was a little unlucky as he has been fast all weekend. Anyway, I can see some small signs of progress and want to carry that forward to the race tomorrow."
"Top 6 was more than I expected so I am very pleased," said Fisico afterwards. "We did a very good job with the engineers and mechanics and everything was going well. Especially with the car set-up. We improved it step by step and particularly for the last run when I did a very good lap. I have done well in the past here, it's a good circuit and I fell that anything is possible. I hope to score some points but my target is to get on the podium as I have done here four times before."
Fisichella talking to his engineer Rob Smedley
Team mate Takuma Sato qualified 15th, but only after disaster struck in the form of a spectacular engine failure following a second qualifying run which had placed him 9th at the time. He was forced to run back to the pits and switch to the T-car which had previously been set up for Giancarlo Fisichella. He managed one run in it, missing his last run when the rain arrived whilst he was making set-up changes.
Taku watching the progress of Qually
"I am disappointed because I could have done better than this," said Taku. "The first run was reasonably easy, but we were improving the set-up and then the engine blew after my second run. The T-car was not set-up the same, so it's been a difficult day."
Sato running back into the pits after his engine failure
"I'm definitely pleased with our performance today. I was a little bit worried yesterday because we were playing around with fuel but we did better than I expected today. We managed to improve the car overnight and that gave us an acceptable qualifying today, so I'm quite happy. It was too bad that we had an engine problem on the last run because we timed it just right before the rain came and could have improved the lap. I think we're in a position to fight in the race tomorrow and hopefully get a point. We're not quick enough down the straights but we're in a good position overall."
"After the first signs of improvement with the car on Friday, I felt we had the potential for a top 10 qualifying position today. Jacques proved that to be the case and I had the car to do the same, so I'm disappointed with 11th. I had a gearshift problem at the end of my first lap which we corrected in time for the 2nd run. The first two sectors of my 2nd and 3rd runs were very good but we just couldn't squeeze more on the third sector. We turned the car around quickly for my last run but it started raining when I left the garage. Still, we have to look on the positive side and be pleased with the improvement in the overall package."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director BAR:
"We're reasonably happy with what we've achieved today, which is our best team qualifying result of the season. We had hoped to do a little better and put both cars inside the top 10, but we did at least see the realistic potential for that today. Without Jacques' engine problem on the last run, we certainly had room for further improvement. We're in a good position for tomorrow so our aim is to get both cars home and be there to make the most of a points-scoring opportunity."
Villeneuve with Jock Clear
David Richards, Team Principal BAR:
"We achieved a solid qualifying performance today which confirmed the view that we are heading in the right direction with the latest evolution of the car. We are in a good position to challenge for points tomorrow and, with Jacques performing in front of his home crowd, let's hope we can deliver a good result."