Qualifying 1 review - Monaco 29 May 2003
Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello set the fastest qualifying times in Monte Carlo this afternoon, their Ferraris dominating a disjointed session with times of 1m 16.305s and 1m 16.636s respectively.
Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn was very happy after the session. "We arrived at our tyre selection quite quickly," he said, "and we have a good package. From now on it's all down to strategy!"
However, BAR's Jenson Button was the star of the session as he fought his way to third place, continuing his morning form. His lap of 1m 16.895s was enough to edge out Renault's Jarno Trulli who had done 1m 16.905s only moments before. "As usual it was manic out there!" Button laughed, "but I'm pretty happy with the car."
While his only problem was a slight graining of his front Bridgestone tyres, team mate Jacques Villeneuve had a more difficult time. Following a 25-minute delay to clear oil from Heinz-Harald Frentzen's failed Sauber, the French-Canadian was much slower in the first two sectors. He then went quicker than Button in the third, but could still only manage 12th place.
Based on practice performance, the man who should have been vying with Button and the Ferraris for provisional pole was Mark Webber. However, he was the first to run after Frentzen's incident and suffered accordingly as his Jaguar kicked up clouds of dust all round the circuit. "There certainly wasn't any oil left on the circuit, but there was a lot of sand!" a frustrated Webber said. "The temperature had also dropped a lot, but we are not sure whether this helped us or not."
The Australian was nevertheless ninth after a strong effort, six places ahead of team mate Antonio Pizzonia who had a difficult day which began when a tyre delamination caused him to break a wheel in the morning. In the afternoon, locked brakes and a brush with the barrier exiting the Swimming Pool section hurt his lap.
Another man to struggle was Renault's Fernando Alonso, who made errors at Mirabeau and Portier that cost him dear and left him only 14th. Team mate Trulli, however, was on his usual Monaco form, leaving Renault engineer Pat Symonds feeling very optimistic.
"Taking into account the very soft tyres used by our rival tyre company today, I am very satisfied with what we achieved," he said.
David Coulthard was happy enough with fifth-fastest time for McLaren, achieved without pushing 100 percent or taking unnecessary risks. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen suffered from being the first man to run and was only 11th.
In the Williams camp Ralf Schumacher edged out Juan Pablo Montoya. The German was happy that his car had been improved since the morning and was sixth quickest, but Montoya was less satisfied with eighth and complained of problems slowing his FW25 at Mirabeau.
The Williams pair sandwiched Giancarlo Fisichella, who delighted Jordan with seventh-best time in 1m 17.080s. "Any time you finish the first day at Monaco with all four wheels on both cars is a result!" engineer Gary Anderson smiled, adding that he was impressed with the way that Monaco rookie Ralph Firman kept his aggression under control while going fast enough to set 13th best time.
Nick Heidfeld rounded out the top 10 despite the poor track conditions when he ran after team-mate Frentzen's problem, but neither of the Toyota drivers got going to their liking. Panis made a mistake at Portier, and da Matta was still learning the circuit. Neither felt their car set-ups were optimised after taking 18th and 19th positions.
At Minardi experience told as Jos Verstappen shaded Justin Wilson by two tenths of a second. Both were quicker than the Toyotas and they finished the session in 16th and 17th spots respectively.