Focus - dream grand prix return for Gene 13 Sep 2003
If only he'd known, he would have gone to bed earlier last night. That late night booking for dinner at the Hotel De La Ville, one of the best eateries near Monza, would definitely have been changed if he'd known that today Marc Gene would be qualifying for his first grand prix since Suzuka 2000.
While wishing no ill on his team mate Ralf Schumacher, this was the dream scenario for Williams' third driver Marc Gene. Ralf decided after qualifying yesterday to withdraw from the remainder of the Italian Grand Prix weekend because of dizzy fits following his enormous accident in testing at the track last week, so Gene was drafted into the second FW25 alongside Juan Pablo Montoya.
"I thought I was still dreaming when I got up this morning," he said. "It's a great opportunity for me and, luckily, I tested at the track last week, so I feel up-to-speed."
Also lucky for him was the fact that he had worked with the senior members of the team's engineering staff many times, so there was no learning period required for him to get the best out of the car. And he acquitted himself well: he set times close to Juan Pablo in this morning's two 45-minute practice sessions and then posted the fifth-fastest time in one-lap qualifying, which was a significant improvement on his previous best qualifying position of 15th, for Minardi.
Marc's inclusion in the race team has made for an all Spanish-speaking driver line-up at Williams this weekend because Montoya's mother tongue, being a Colombian, is also Spanish. Debriefs, however, remain in English because the team's technical director Patrick Head is a quintessential Englishman.
And Marc will be early to bed this evening...