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Qualifying 1 review - Austria 16 May 2003

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2003-GA.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Austrian Grand Prix, A1-Ring, Austria, 16 May 2003

Not even a temporary scare during the post-session weighing procedures could dent Ferrari's mood after Michael Schumacher dominated this afternoon's first qualifying session for the Austrian Grand Prix.

In cloudy but warm conditions the world champion made maximum use of Bridgestone's latest tyre to lap in 1m 07.908s, a dramatic improvement over his morning best of 1m 09.968s. Team mate Rubens Barrichello was second fastest in 1m 08.187s, much of the difference the result of a mistake going into the first corner.

After the session Schumacher's car was momentarily thought to be underweight, but a problem with the weighing was soon rectified and the F2003-GA passed with no problem second time around.

"This was a very encouraging qualifying session," said Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt. "Bridgestone has done a very good job, and even though we know that the only positions that are valid are those at the end of Saturday afternoon, this is a good start."

Behind the red cars, Mark Webber again excelled for Jaguar, placing the R4 third overall on 1m 08.512s. Normally the car is very sensitive to temperature change, and the track temperature varied between 32 and 22 degrees Celsius as the session progressed, but the Australian reported that on this occasion the car's behaviour remained consistent.

"The balance was very good, and I'm pretty happy," Webber said. "To be honest, I was expecting to be so high." Team mate Antonio Pizzonia was ninth fastest, on 1m 09.024s.

BAR are also looking strong here, and Jacques Villeneuve expressed his satisfaction with the 005's behaviour. He took the fourth-fastest time, a fraction ahead of team mate Jenson Button, who complained of a little too much oversteer. "The car is working well here," Villeneuve said, after recording 1m 08.680s. Button's best was 1m 08.831s.

Though Juan Pablo Montoya was only sixth fastest, nursing understeer on his Williams FW25, the overall mood of the team is very optimistic. The Colombian said he was feeling "generally good" about his prospects for the weekend. Chief operations engineer Sam Michael commented: "We are happy with the balance and the car is handling well. We should be very competitive here."

Ralf Schumacher, however, having warned the previous day that he did not want to take anything for granted on the single-lap qualifying front, spun away his chances in Turn 4 and will start first in qualifying tomorrow. "It was my mistake," he admitted. "I just braked too late."

The McLarens were seventh and eighth, with David Coulthard just shading Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 08.947s to 1m 08.978s. Both drivers said they weren't particularly worried, but managing director Martin Whitmarsh admitted: "Our set-up work seemed okay this morning, but we are slightly disappointed by our performance this afternoon."

Jordan achieved their aim of a top 10 place, courtesy of Giancarlo Fisichella's hard-won 1m 09.281s lap. Ralph Firman was on target for a 1m 09.6s lap or thereabouts, but by his own admission he pushed too hard in the last corner and ended up sliding down the grass and damaging his car as he crossed the line backwards. His subsequent 1m 11.171s lap left him 19th.

Renault's productive morning did not translate into top 10 lap times this afternoon, despite the reported power increase from the D specification version of the R23 engine. Jarno Trulli was only 11th on 1m 09.450s, Fernando Alonso 13th on 1m 09.680s. "We didn't maximise the advantage that we should have got from our running this morning," executive engineering director Pat Symonds admitted.

Likewise Sauber failed to match their morning placings. Both cars were improved by small changes, but Nick Heidfeld was 12th on 1m 09.479s and Heinz-Harald Frentzen was 15th on 1m 10.055s.

It has been tough for Toyota too, as both drivers struggled to set up their TF103s and Cristiano da Matta (16th on 1m 10.370s) had the additional handicap of having to learn the circuit. Nevertheless, Olivier Panis (14th on 1m 09.764s) is optimistic that a top 10 qualifying slot is not impossible on Saturday.

Finally, at Minardi Jos Verstappen maintained his morning advantage over team mate Justin Wilson to take 17th place, with a lap of 1m 10.894s to the Englishman's 1m 11.056s.