New qualifying format is a big success 07 Mar 2003
Peter Sauber spoke for most people this afternoon when he said: "The new qualifying mode ran smoothly, gave the crowd a good show, and was good for Formula One. "
The field was released in 2002 championship-finishing order, but first-out Michael Schumacher suffered from a slippery track and was beaten by next man out Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian's 1 min 26.372 secs time then remained unbeaten for the rest of the session.
"It's a new experience but there are no points and it doesn't get you a good grid position," the Brazilian said.
Next was Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 26.551s, despite pushing too hard and running wide in the first corner. David Coulthard was only sixth, feeling that the new format was a bit flat. "One run, and it's over," the Scot said.
After a disastrous morning with dual engine failures (for different reasons), the new BAR Hondas starred. Jenson Button was initially fourth fastest time before being pushed down by his flying team-mate Jacques Villeneuve. BMW Williams' drivers were less happy. Juan Pablo Montoya said his car lacked speed, while Ralf Schumacher screwed up the first sector, and said his car was "mega-nervous, with lots of understeer in slow corners."
The qualifying order will now be reversed for Saturday afternoon's grid-forming session.