Final qualifying review - San Marino 19 Apr 2003
The delight was evident on Michael Schumacher's face as he stepped out of his Ferrari after claiming pole position for tomorrow's San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. The signs were there in qualifying yesterday, and this afternoon the red car proved uncatchable - while running a reasonable fuel load.
"We have a good chance to win tomorrow," the world champion said. "I'm really happy to be on pole again, and this circuit must be good for us. I lost a little time when I ran wide at the Variante Alta, but otherwise it was a good lap and I am happy."
Team-mate Rubens Barrichello spun during the 15 minute warm-up session so Ferrari had to scramble to get his car ready. "In the circumstances, third place is okay," the Brazilian said.
Separating them was Ralf Schumacher, who had to take the spare BMW Williams FW25 after all after damaging his intended race car against the wall in the Variante Alta chicane in the morning's free practice. The German put together a clean lap of 1m 22.341s which held firm until brother Michael's final attack.
Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth in the second FW25, complaining of understeer, but overall the Anglo-German team is feeling very bullish for the race.
Once again Mark Webber and Jaguar played a starring role, the Australian hustling his green car round to fifth fastest time ahead of Kimi Raikmkonen, who made a small mistake at the Variante Alta but was pleased to have made progress after Friday. David Coulthard made a slightly bigger mistake exiting Rivazza, and is only 12th quickest. "Overall, slightly disappointing," said McLaren Mercedes technical director Adrian Newey.
Jacques Villeneuve was in strong form for BAR Honda to ace team-mate Jenson Button; they were seventh and ninth respectively, sandwiching Fernando Alonso in the quicker Renault. Olivier Panis completed the top 10 for Toyota, very happy with his car's revised behaviour over Imola's numerous kerbs.
Nick Heidfeld used the spare Sauber Petronas to set 11th fastest time, with team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen using his new engine to set 14th. Cristiano da Matta pipped the German, but Antonio Pizzonia, Jarno Trulli (who had a different fuel load to Alonso) and Brazilian GP winner Giancarlo Fisichella are all behind the Sauber.
Some dramatic tyre flat-spotting early in his lap kept Ralph Firman behind Justin Wilson's Minardi, while Jos Verstappen crashed his at the Variante Alta after pushing too hard on the entry and will start from last place on the grid, having failed to record a time.
An all-Schumacher front row will have poignance tomorrow, as the brothers' mother Elisabeth is recovering in a clinic in Cologne after a serious fall at home last week.