David COULTHARD - 2nd
His goal was to finish with a podium place and he was delighted to have achieved it. He was also delighted for the team who had both their drivers on the podium. They received a little helping hand from Jacques, and he also let Mika overtake him as he was stuck behind the Jordan and could not overtake. Mika was obviously very quick as he managed to overtake Jacques at the chicane. It is a great result for them.
Jacques VILLENEUVE - 3rd
Jacques said that it was great winning the Championship, especially as it had been so close all season. He was rather worried when he overtook Michael, knowing that he was taking a big risk, but he was surprised when Michael came back into him, even though he knew it might be on the cards.
He thought his car was slightly damaged as it seemed strange afterwards, but then he started attacking again for a few laps before having to slow down again because his tyres were getting worse especially on the straights. Towards the end he saw Mika in his wing mirror and as he had noticed earlier on in the race, Mika was faster than he. He thus preferred to let him past.
Gerhard BERGER - 4th
His wish was to finish his career as sportingly as possible and he believes he has achieved that. He got his first points 13 years ago, in only his second race: he has been with the winners from the start. Even today he is still there, finishing only 1.5 seconds behind the winner. It is the best finish possible for a true sporting career.
He had to admit that there were moments when he found it difficult to concentrate, but on the grid he realised he had to give his best for his fans. He did and now he is happy. He wished to thank all the personnel in the Benetton team, as well as those for whom he has driven throughout his career.
Eddie IRVINE - 5th
He had a fairly good start and then just tried to maintain his position. To begin with he was not pushing Damon, but waited until before the pit stops when he attacked and overtook Damon. He then spent most of the rest of the race following the McLarens, but was unable to get past them. He passed Frentzen at the next set of pit stops. He had a problem with his right front tyre and then Fisichella blocked him at the chicane for no apparent reason, as Fisichella was a lap behind, which enabled Berger to get past him.
Heinz-Harald FRENTZEN - 6th
His first bit of teamwork with Jacques went exactly as planned, but unfortunately his second pit stop for refueling did not go as planned. He was a bit worried and stopped at the wrong place, one of Benetton's spots!
He thought they were going to give him less petrol, but when he saw the old tyres he realised that he was not really in the correct position. It could have been better, but on the whole he was happy with his third place in the Championship and delighted for Jacques.
Michael SCHUMACHER - Did Not Finish
He has known happier days in his life, but that is racing, it has its good and bad days. His car was well set up and he was able to maintain his lead. In the first few laps after he had new tyres, Jacques was faster. He felt however he could maintain his lead, but then Jacques tried to overtake, which came off well for Jacques, but not for Michael. Michael wants to congratulate Jacques on his championship win as he has had a good season. In the end he achieved the result and Michael will have to make do with it. As it is he feels that his team have made good progress this year and are pleased with the results they have achieved.
In Michael's opinion Ferrari are the best team in Formula 1 and it is something for them to be proud about. As far as the incident goes, Jacques had nothing to lose and was giving it all he had. Behind Michael he had no chance of winning the championship and to be honest, Michael felt he would have done the same in his place. Michael had braked as late as possible, but Jacques had braked even later, so Michael did not think he had committed a fault.
Michael has been called before the Sport's Commissioners, but that is normal as they have to make out a report about the incident. As Michael expected no sanctions have been announced against him. He had no problem with his tyres. After each pit stop he was careful not to go too fast for the first few laps.
He wanted to say "grazie" to all the "tifosi" for their support.
Jean TODT - Ferrari Manager
He said that Michael had had a great start and that their strategy was the right one. It was a shame that the incident occurred when Villeneuve tried to overtake Michael. They have to accept it as a race incident in a very stressful situation, even if it is difficult to accept. The team had made a great effort throughout the season and they had had good results. They are not demoralised for the next season and have decided to prepare for it as well as possible.
Frank WILLIAMS - Williams Manager
He said that it was a great victory, great title. Jacques had never lost his cool and never stopped attacking, seizing his chance when it appeared: the result being that he won the Championship. He had had to be on top form morally and Frank was delighted for him.
The pre-race tension seemed to continually mount throughout the race and lasted to the very final few seconds. The first drama was who would lead out of the first corner. Schumacher made a great start from 2nd on the grid and took the first corner in front of Frentzen (from 3rd on the grid) and a cautious Villeneuve (from pole to 3rd in 100m). By the end of the first lap Schumacher was leading by nearly 2 seconds in front of Frentzen, Villeneuve, Hakkinen, Coulthard and Hill.
On lap 10 Villeneuve passes Frentzen and heads for Schumacher 4 seconds in front of him. Schumacher continues to pull away though. He pits on lap 22 whilst over 5 seconds in front of Villeneuve. Villeneuve himself is over 10 seconds in front of Frentzen and the pack.
Jacques pits on the next lap and just misses overtaking M.Schumacher after he rejoins. The rest of the top six pit in the following 6 laps. By now M.Schumacher is back in front less than a second in front of Villeneuve who is over 12 seconds in front of Coulthard, Hakkinen, Frentzen and Irvine.
Once again Schumacher begins to pull away, this time though Jacques keeps within 2 seconds of the Ferrari. Schumacher pits on lap 43 and Villeneuve on lap 44. Villeneuve is now on a charge. He closes up on Schumacher and finally dives down his inside while outbraking the German on lap 47. The Ferrari's front right wheel hits the Williams side pods, thrown off line the German slides off into the gravel - and sticks. Everyone watches Villeneuve - has the Williams been damaged? Schumacher is out, but could still win the Championship if Villeneuve does not finish in the top six..... Tense minutes follow as everyone realises Villeneuve is OK and still leading the race by over 10 seconds. Schumacher retires to the quiet of the Ferrari motorhome followed by a string of cameramen.
So it's all over and Villeneuve will win - wrong. Over the next few laps Coulthard eats into the Canadian's lead. By lap 52 it's 8.9s, lap 59 it's 4.7s, lap 65 it's 1.8s, then Coulthard seems to back off. Hakkinen, though, following right on David's tail has no such back off - two laps from the end he passes Coulthard and charges for Villeneuve. As they begin the last lap it's 1.2 seconds between them. Just before the final chicane it's an inspired Mika Hakkinen who passes Villeneuve. Coulthard passes the Canadian just before the final corner and if the finish line had been 3m further along Berger would have passed him as well. Jacques just wanted to finish with a point and so avoided any last minute dicing with the Championship.
So Mika Hakkinen takes his first and much waited for Formula 1 victory and Jacques takes his first World Championship. An excellent race for most of the teams with 17 of the 22 cars finishing.
The session passed without incident. Most of the teams seem to be using a soft tyre compound with the exception of Jordan who were running a harder rubber. The Irish team are expecting to make 2 pit stops during the race, it is expected that the other teams with softer tyres will have to make 3 stops. This assumes it does not rain. At the moment there is only a slight chance of rain, the high winds and proximity of the circuit to the sea could make the weather change quickly though.
M. Schumacher - 2nd
On his best lap he knew he was under 1'21"0, but did not know if he was in front of or behind Jacques. He did not believe it when he saw the screen. It proves that the competition is at a very high level. He was quite happy with his third attempt even though he had locked his brakes. He was hoping that he and Jacques would be on the front row and is now hoping for a good race.
In the race at the first corner all will depend on who gets the best start. Not being on pole is not a problem for Michael. There is no extra pressure on him for this race and he has prepared for it the same as the other races, but even so it is different and a little more exciting.
Frentzen - 3rd
He knew he was on a good lap and tried to make sure that all went as it should. However he made a mistake at the chicane and ran wide. He feels that Jacques and Michael need to make a good start as the first corner is so important. He does not feel he can do much to help Jacques at the first corner. He thinks that next year they should have four zero's after the dot.....
Irvine - 7th
He is unhappy not to have got the best out of his car, as unfortunately on his best lap he made two little mistakes. On his fourth attempt he was going well but a problem with the brake balance cost him dearly at some corners. He is too far back on the grid to be able to help Michael in the race, so he is going to have to cope on his own.. He hopes Michael will get a good start.
Jean Todt - Ferrari Manager
He said that three cars on exactly the same time is unbelievable and something he has never seen before. The race tomorrow should be a hard one but certainly interesting. Eddie had managed to improve on his times but was slow in the first half because of a problem with the brake balance.
Berger - 8th
He is very disappointed as his car was going well yesterday and this morning he was confident. They had made minor adjustments, but were unable to achieve good results in qualifying. They were not sure if the times were because of the car or the high winds. They hope to be better tomorrow having studied today's results.
Panis - 9th
They had achieved very good results in the morning with a well balanced car and he was very confident for the qualifying session. However, during the lunch break the wind got up and he no longer had the same feelings in the car. All of a sudden the car was much more nervous, even in the fast corners, where he had never had the least problem throughout the weekend.
Little by little they made changes to the settings to compensate for these new conditions and he finally did his best lap on his last attempt. According to the two first split times he should have been in the top six, but unfortunately coming out of the hairpin he encountered Katayama's Minardi stopped in the middle of the track.
Alesi - 10th
They had managed to achieve good settings on the car this morning, but were unable to reproduce them during qualifying. The car had no grip even though they made a lot of modifications throughout the session.
At the start of the session Olivier Panis was the first car on track, rapidly followed by Magnussen, Herbert and Fontana. Olivier set the first provisional pole at 1m 22.191s.
7 minutes into the session and Alesi cancels his first fast lap by running part of it through a gravel bed. Seconds later Frentzen pushes provisional pole to 1m 22.022s.
15 minutes into the session and most of the top names now have a time. Villeneuve is sitting on pole at 1m 21.072s, 0.4s behind is Coulthard with M.Schumacher in third, 0.7s off the pace. The rest of the top six are Frentzen, Panis and Diniz.
26 minutes into the session Ralf Schumacher spins off into the gravel and stays there. Seconds later brother Michael passes the same point over 0.3s faster than Villeneuve's pole. By the time he passes the start line his lap is EXACTLY THE SAME TIME as Villeneuve. The top six at the 30 minute mark are: Villeneuve (on pole as he took the time first) and M.Schumacher both on 1m 21.072s, third is Coulthard followed by Frentzen, Irvine and Magnussen. Seconds later Berger slips into 5th, then Hakkinen takes third from his teammate.
With 20 minutes left Villeneuve beats his pole time by 0.2s at the split time but the complete lap is no improvement. Meanwhile Coulthard takes a short cut over the gravel whilst trying to improve.
15 minutes left and the top six are still: Villeneuve, M.Schumacher, Hakkinen, Coulthard, Irvine and Frentzen (Pole + 0.581s).
10 minutes to go and Frentzen joins his teammate on the 1m 21.072s line. Yes, the first three drivers all have exactly the same time! Is this close or what? Seconds later and Damon Hill jumps into 4th place, just 0.058s off the magic time.
5 minutes to go and the top six are: Villeneuve, M.Schumacher, Frentzen, Hill, Hakkinen, and Coulthard (pole + 0.404s).
In the last few seconds Coulthard once again fails to improve, Villeneuve and M.Schumacher start their last fast laps, neither improve. So Villeneuve takes the pole by timing rather than lap time, with M.Schumacher next to him (not really behind him) and Frentzen next to them in time but one row back, on the grid along with an absolutely delighted Damon Hill.
In the first part of the session Hakkinen had been fastest at 1m 21.463s (195.681km/h - 9L) in front of Frentzen (11L), Alesi (8L), M.Schumacher (13L), Villeneuve (11L) and Nakano (16L). Coulthard (10L) was 7th fastest, Irvine (17L) 11th and Panis (12L) 12th. During this first part of the session both Panis and Fisichella spun their cars.
Tension was mounting between the Williams and Ferrari camps with Jacques Villeneuve protesting about Irvine blocking him during the two Free Practice sessions.
In the second part of the session both Barrichello and Alesi spun off the track. Alesi only registered 2 laps and dropped back to 10th fastest.
Michael Schumacher seems to be playing his cards very close to his chest letting his best time drop to 14th. This is sure to be a tactic and we are all expecting great things from the Ferrari in a few hours time.
Villeneuve - 3rd
Today's session went well and the work went as planned. It is very important to be on the first row of the grid here as the tyres wear quickly and it is a very difficult track on which to overtake.
M. Schumacher - 9th Today was spent in setting up the car with its race settings and all went well. Today's positions do not mean anything as I only used one set of tyres and the faster drivers used two sets or only came onto the track later on in the sessions when there was already a layer of rubber laid down, which of course improves adherence. He was quite optimistic regarding the qualifying tommorow, hoping to place himself on the front row of the grid
It was then Michael's turn to answer the Press's questions. Having been one of the few to test recently in Jerez, he did not find the idea of racing on a mostly unknown circuit by many of the drivers to be unusual as the same thing occurs each year at various tracks including Monaco and Spa. Apart from its fast curves and slow corners with difficult overtaking he feels that there is nothing exceptional about this circuit. He felt that he was under as much pressure as usual before a race even though this race is a particularly special one, but perhaps later on in the weekend he would be under more pressure as its importance had its impact on him. Ferrari had been testing at Fiorino last week with Larini testing Monday and Tuesday, Michael on Wednesday and Thursday and finally Eddie Irvine on the Friday. There have been some new features in the car that have much improved its perfomance over the last three races, such as the new active differential and improvements in the springs supplied by Sachs. They were expected to give better balance and make driving easier, so it was a great surprise to find that the lap times were also faster. He felt that after Suzuka the car should be competitive on the Spanish circuit
Frentzen was fastest in the first part of the session at 1m 23.458s (9L - 191km/h) in front of M.Schumacher (4L), Hakkinen (5L), R.Schumacher (4L), Irvine (7L) and Hill (8L - 1m 24.059s). Villeneuve (10L) was 7th fastest and Alesi (6L) 10th. David Coulthard did not drive at all in this part of the session. Many drivers found the track dirty and slippery and tyre wear was a particular problem.
In the first part of the session Frentzen had a puncture on the circuit, Villeneuve had no real problems (except lap times), both drivers have their own spare cars for this weekend. Ferrari will also have two spare cars available for their drivers, this weekend they are using new acceleration control software (hope its not from Microsoft! - just a joke!) and a new hydraulic differential. Fisichella also suffered a puncture on circuit. After his accident in Japan, Morbidelli has been replaced in the Sauber seat for this race by Norberto Fontana. Both Fontana and Diniz are spending their time today learning the circuit. Marques had problems with an oil radiator leak in his Minardi.
In the second part of the session Villeneuve, Hill and Verstappen all made obvious errors.
Like last year this final race of the season will decide the World Champion. Once again its Villeneuve within spitting distance of the title - last year he lost out to a bad starting position and the wheel falling off his car! His rival is double World Champion Michael Schumacher looking to take his first title with Ferrari. Schumacher is one point ahead of Villeneuve but must finish in front of him to take his third crown. If both drivers end the day with the same number of points Villeneuve will take the title as he has won more races this season
The loss of his 2 Championship points puts Villeneuve 1 point behind Schumacher instead of 1 point in front. It does not stop Williams from wining the Constructors Championship as they are still 18 points in front of Ferrari.