SAO PAULO: Australian Mark Webber targeted a top six finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix after giving Jaguar the best grid position of their Formula One history.
Webber, surprisingly fastest on Friday, qualified third at Interlagos on Saturday to better the fifth place slot achieved by Briton Eddie Irvine at the Italian Grand Prix last September. Irvine finished third in that race.
“The guys in the garage were shaking their heads,” said Webber after qualifying well ahead of Ferrari’s five times world champion Michael Schumacher in seventh place.
“Some of them were saying they were just waiting to wake up. We didn’t really expect that.”
Qualifying is as much about strategy as speed now, with cars on different fuel loads, but Webber said he felt well placed for a two-stop race after a qualifying time of 1:13.851.
“We have had a very strong weekend here, there’s no question about it,” he said.
“The car’s felt really well balanced and it’s just worked out well for us.
“I would say we have arrived in terms of our goals. In terms of gaining respect. We don’t have the same goals as McLaren and Williams and Ferrari.
“We have to remember where the R3 was last year, the boys haven’t forgotten that, let me tell you. It was a hard period for them and we are coming out the other side of this.
“We still have so much more to do and it’s going to take months.”
Last year’s R3 was a troublesome car that Jaguar bosses now say should not have been allowed out of the factory.
The R4 looks better but Jaguar have failed to finish the first two races in a season full of surprises as a result of rule changes and weather conditions.
“To start this race from the second row of the grid ahead of Schumacher’s Ferrari, a McLaren and both Williams is just reward for the hard work everyone has put into making the R4 a solid contender around Interlagos,” said Mark Gillan, who oversees Jaguar’s trackside operations.
Webber, rookie of the year with Minardi last season, said his time had surprised him and he wished people could know exactly how much fuel he had on board to show just how competitive the car was.
“I expected a 1:14.3 or a 14.2,” he said. “When I went out I said if I can do a 14.1 I’ll be really happy. That would have been a pretty good lap.
“But looking at the split times on my steering wheel, I totally creamed the first sector. I was really happy with that. Then I thought just stay cool, get down the second and the middle part of that was very good.”
Webber was faster than Ferrari’s Brazilian pole man Rubens Barrichello in the first two sectors but lost time in the third due to a lack of straight line speed at the end.
The crowds, celebrating Barrichello’s lap, went silent as Webber’s times flashed up but he shrugged off any sense of pressure.
“I didn’t have a clue what Rubens had done really,” he said.
“There’s always pressure with this new system ... it’s a very tough job for the driver to control his aggression and do the best lap you can.” – Reuters