Qualifying 2 review - Spain 03 May 2003
Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn said yesterday that he hoped that the team's new car would be "competitive" here in Barcelona. This afternoon Michael Schumacher duly proved that it is by taking the 53rd pole position of his career and the first for the new machine, the F2003-GA.
"I'm very happy to put the new car on pole," the world champion said. "It shows how well the team works. It wasn't easy to get a good set-up as the track conditions were changing all the time, but we did it."
His time of 1m 17.762s comfortably eclipsed team-mate Rubens Barrichello's 1m 18.020s, which was nevertheless good enough for the other front row position. And there was an extra bonus for Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen crucially made an error negotiating Turn Seven and was obliged to abort the lap altogether so that McLaren Mercedes can repair any damage ahead of the race. The Finn must claw his way back into contention from a pit-lane start, having failed to set a time. McLaren, however, can change Raikkonen's car set-up, tyre compound and fuel load right up until the start, whereas, of course, everyone else must run as they qualified.
Barrichello admitted that he was "too cautious in some corners, and made two mistakes on others," but though he thought his lap was only so-so it was good enough to beat the two Renaults, which have the second row of the grid buttoned up. Fernando Alonso, third quickest, said: "It is very special to be in front of my fellow countrymen, and a great motivation for me. It's important to know that tomorrow we will not be going for the win, but for a good race and to score a lot of points."
Jarno Trulli was happy enough, and said: "The car was well balanced and competitive. It will be a difficult race but I am confident we are well prepared."
At BAR Jenson Button ran a different strategy to Jacques Villeneuve and was delighted with fifth-fastest time in a 005 that handled well. Villeneuve lines up 11th.
Sixth place brought a big smile to Olivier Panis's face. "I am very, very, very pleased with my lap," the Frenchman said. "It was good and clean and the car obviously suits this track very well. We have a good strategy for tomorrow and will be aiming for points." Team-mate Cristiano da Matta is only 13th after struggling with oversteer in a car that he described as "not as good as yesterday."
Seventh place on the grid was a boost for BMW Williams after its disappointing morning performance, but nobody was drawing much comfort from that. "I'm not happy," Ralf Schumacher said. "We are too far away from our rivals and we did not get on top of our balance problems." Montoya was ninth, running the T-car after his race FW25 developed a fuel pump problem. "The handling was better," the Colombian acknowledged, "but still not ideal."
David Coulthard's McLaren will start between the two Williams, the unhappy Scot also having to switch to the spare car. His race MP4-17D developed an engine problem, and though the unit was changed just in time for his qualifying run, he had already committed to the spare chassis, which was set up for Raikkonen. The smart money is on the McLarens both having run in qualifying with a relatively heavy fuel load and the harder Michelin tyre.
Tenth place was a big boost for Sauber Petronas, thanks to the efforts of Heinz-Harald Frentzen. The German survived a scare in the warm-up when his car developed a serious vibration, thought to emanate from the brakes. All was well for qualifying though, where he made the most of the team's race strategy (thought to embrace three stops) and a small improvement in the car's balance. Team-mate Nick Heidfeld is on a slightly different strategy and said his car's balance was the best it had been all weekend on his way to 14th slot.
Mark Webber suggested yesterday that a top 10 position might be difficult for Jaguar, and so it proved. The Australian and team-mate Antonio Pizzonia both opted for harder Michelins and focused on their race set-up, settling for 12th and 16th respectively.
For the first time Ralph Firman out-qualified Jordan Ford team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, but there was a complicated tale behind the story. Firman did a good job all weekend, but on Saturday morning Fisichella's race car developed an engine problem. The Cosworth V10 from his T-car was removed so it could be fitted to the race car, but the fuel pump was damaged during this operation so off came the engine and back on it went to the T-car, which the Italian was obliged to use. There wasn't time to drain out the fuel, so he was obliged to qualify (and of course race) on a different strategy to the one Jordan originally intended.
Finally, Justin Wilson was delighted to out-qualify Jos Verstappen at Minardi, albeit by a tenth of a second.