Rain ruins rush to grid

Johnny Herbert, the Benetton driver, explains the emotions felt in the pits during practice sessions
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The Independent Online
EVERY driver is looking to complete his first fast qualifying lap as quickly as possible. That is the one that relaxes you; then you know that you are in the race. You can start taking bigger risks and pushing yourself and the car that little bit harder. The adrenalin is really flowing, particularly on the circuits where the tyres are at their best for only one lap.

That is why Silverstone has been so disappointing for us at Benetton. My team-mate, Michael Schumacher, showed the potential of our car on Friday, and I was also confident of going quicker yesterday, but then the rain came and I was stuck with the fifth place I had already achieved. Being denied that chance to go quicker is one of the great anti-climaxes of the sport. You are all pumped up to push even harder, you've got ideas how to improve the car, and then there's nothing you can do, it's out of your hands. It is incredibly frustrating.

Knowing the precise moment to go out on the track is crucial. We all have our television monitors which sit over the car just ahead of the cockpit while we are in the pits, so you know who is out there at any given time, and what lap times they are doing.

At a track such as Monaco the level of traffic is very important and clear laps are really hard to find. And it is not as simple as knowing that there are five or six cars out on the circuit: some of them may just be going out, others may be near the end of their run after three laps. You can work all that out from the monitor, and you hold that in your head. Ayrton Senna's retention and assessment of that information was fantastic - one of the reasons that he was such a brilliant driver.

A driver has to process all this information every time he is waiting to go. Then there is just one warm-up lap to assess the track conditions before the quick one has to be produced.

That is where the confidence matters most. If you are really familiar with your car and if you have done plenty of testing, you can really push very hard right from the start with little compromise. Of course, it doesn't always work. At the end of yesterday's session I went out to scrub in some tyres and had a little "flick" at the back which caused me to go off. The car was damaged but we're all set up for the race.