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Interview with Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve went from zero to hero when his gamble to become the first guy to go to dry tyres in qualifying paid off, despite a heart stopping spin on his out lap which somehow resulted in him facing the right direction with four wheels still on his Sauber. He ended up in fourth place, and has a good chance of holding on to that in second qualifying, as nearest rival Christian Klien is 0.5s behind.

Fourth place overnight - are you pretty happy with that?

Jacques Villeneuve: "Today I got lucky. The track was dry for two runs, Fisichella's and mine, or at least semi-dry. And it paid off, it worked. We are in a better qualifying position today than we would have been in normal conditions, so I'm actually very happy. And also we weren't sure about the set-up of the car, because we didn't do too much running yesterday. Choosing the dry tyres for that run was a big risk, and it was touch and go, fifty-fifty. I think we made the right choice. I think we would have been slower with the wet tyres at that point, because the track was a little bit hot and too dry, and then would have overheated. That was the right touch."

When you missed the barrier during the spin, was there a bit of luck involved?

Villeneuve: "It was great car control! It was lucky because I thought I was going touch the wall with the rear wing, and it was very close."

Because of the time gaps, if it's dry in second qualifying you're not likely to lose more than one place...

Villeneuve: 'Oh yeah, but the good thing is we don't need to short fuel it to qualify well, we can actually put the normal fuel load. But the worry is the Renaults, because they always have a good fuel consumption. They'll probably do a one-stop. If they don't blow up, they'll win the race. We can concentrate on doing what is the best fuel quantity for the race, and not think about qualifying. Even with a very bad qualifying maybe we lose one place or two places, so it's good to concentrate purely on the race."

How difficult will it be for the guys at the back to come through, bearing in mind they have to save the tyres?

Villeneuve: "You don't need to conserve the tyres, you just have to push. The technology is so good now, and the way the grooves are, you actually recuperate the tyres. If you roll the rubber, if you get graining, the graining will go in the little hole. So the tyre just gets better. If they were slick, it would just be more damaging. On grooved tyre it compensates for itself."

Any thoughts on Michael Schumacher starting at the back?

Villeneuve: "He's started from the back before and had very good races. There are enough people starting at the back, it shouldn't affect too much the whole race. The only one who has a home free run is Fisichella."

What do you think about the new qualifying regulations?

Villeneuve: "Today I love it, because I got very lucky with it. It suits me just today! Last year it was the same, if it had rained in the last session, the same thing would have happened. It's the first time I'm lucky like that, so I'm going to enjoy it all evening."

Can you remember the last time that you were on the second row?

Villeneuve: "It's a long time ago, but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, and it paid off!"

How much did you back off on your qualifying lap after spinning on the warm-up lap?

Villeneuve: "Quite a lot. First of all because the temperature of the tyres went down drastically, and also I didn't want to go off. I don't know if it's the electronics or the tyres, but as soon as you hit a wet patch like that, there's nothing you can do. It's very difficult visually to see where it's wet and where it's not. I slowed down just a little bit too much really. But still it was worth it."

Because if you hadn't slowed down...

Villeneuve: "I would have spun on the timed lap, yes! It's much better this way, and it's better for the TV."

You went off on the slowing down lap as well. How were the tyres after two offs, because you have to use them tomorrow?

Villeneuve: "I didn't think about that! You're right, shit... Debris, debris, if there's debris you're allowed to change them!"

Was it your choice to go on dry tyres?

Villeneuve: "Well, the engineer was asking what I wanted to do, and then one minute before going, I went for them. I saw that David [Coulthard]'s lap time was going off in the last sector, so it meant that the tyres were overheating, and the track was drying quite fast. It was maybe one minute too early, but it was the right choice. The track was drying really fast.

You seemed to have problems with braking when you ran a bit wide. Was it just damp in those places?

Villeneuve: "There was no heat in the tyres, and compared to yesterday we changed some stuff on the brakes and on the set-up. I did one lap this morning in the dry, but that was on cold tyres. We just didn't know what the set-up was going to do, it was a lot of guess work. I'm over the balance problem with braking, but I touch some bits with my feet in the monocoque when I brake really hard, and that's a problem now. As long as the brake pedal doesn't get long, it's OK. If the brake pedal gets long, that will be a problem."

Everyone lost a lot of dry running this morning. How much of an unknown will the race be for you guys?

Villeneuve: "It's a big unknown, and that's why we did the set-up just thinking, 'well, we have to save these tyres', thinking the rear tyres mainly, and we adjusted the set-up for that, not really knowing what the balance was like. We went for the safe way."

Did you get a clear picture already now of who is strong and who is not so strong?

Villeneuve: "No, with today's running in the wet... all I know is we're not as strong as we want to be. I think even Williams might be in front of us, which is a little bit disappointing. It looks like we'll be at the same level as Red Bull at the moment. That's definitely not good enough. We seem to be better off on the long runs, anyway. I think we'll know more in the race."

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