An all-Renault front row for Malaysia 22 Mar 2003
Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli withstood Michael Schumacher's late-session attack to maintain an all-Renault front row in Sepang this afternoon, even though the track temperature was dropping rapidly during the session - 49 degrees celcius when Alonso went fastest, 46 when Trulli made his run and only 38 degrees for Schumacher's qualifying lap. In theory, the falling temperatures should have given the German the advantage.
Once again the new regulations have effectively juggled the grid, with Coulthard a conservative fourth, followed by Rubens Barrichello in the second Ferrari, then Nick Heidfeld (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) and - in eighth place, wishing he had run more front wing, Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams). JPM's team-mate, Ralf Schumacher, fell victim to the 'one shot' qualifying as two mistakes during his lap left him in 17th position.
Jenson Button was quietly satisfied to beat team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, who pushed too hard in the third sector of his lap, the BAR drivers' ninth and 12th places sandwiching the fuel-heavy Toyotas of Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta. The Brazilian had been forced to switch to the spare car at the last moment when his race car developed a clutch problem.
Tomorrow's race will certainly see many two-stop strategies, but Renault may even try three, and some of the fuel-heavy cars may well be attempting single stoppers.