Qualifying 2 review - Monaco 31 May 2003
Ralf Schumacher's 1m 15.259s lap proved good enough to take pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday. It followed a nervous wait for the Williams driver before he saw the Ferraris of Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher fail to match his time.
The German was delighted with his Michelin-shod FW25, but admitted that he was surprised. "This pole position means a lot to me," he said. "It's my second after France 2001. I am very surprised. I never thought it would be possible, especially when I saw my brother being so strong in the first sector. But obviously he made some mistakes or something."
Ralf Schumacher had supplanted Kimi Raikkonen as the fastest man, but the Finn's time of 1m 15.295s also held up and he will start his McLaren from the other front row slot.
Behind them, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jarno Trulli share row two. The Colombian was not as happy with his Williams as he had been in the morning, when he described it as easy to drive, and said: "I lost my time in the second sector, which is where you make or lose time. The car was better this morning. But at least last year's start proved that the left-hand side of the grid is not such a disadvantage."
Tyre wear problems left the Ferraris on rows three and four, as their Bridgestone rears grained before the end of the lap. "I hope it is a difference in fuel loads that has decided the grid," technical director Ross Brawn said glumly, "but it looks like the tyres did not hold grip for the whole lap."
"I'm not satisfied," Michael Schumacher added. "The first row would be better than the third. But it is not a hopeless situation. The tyres were not perfect for the whole lap. When you are fifth there is always a chance that you will be involved in an incident at the first corner, but they have modified the first corner this year and there are more chances to escape if there is one." The world champion was fifth, team mate Rubens Barrichello seventh.
Between them was David Coulthard, the man who had expected more after his scintillating performance this morning when he was the only driver to break into the 1m 14s. This time he had to be satisfied with 1m 15.700s (compared to Schumacher's 1m 15.644s and Barrichello's 1m 15.820s).
"I had a bit of oversteer this morning so we made a change and that gave me understeer," the Scot said. "I lost a bit in the chicane as a result. But Michelin seems to have the better tyre here. We'll find out for sure in the race."
Technical director Adrian Newey said of his feeling: "I suppose it is really a mixture of being pleased that we are competitive but at the same time slightly disappointed not to get both cars on the front row. But we think we have a good strategy. We will find out tomorrow."
For Renault, fourth and eighth places were disappointing, given the hopes the team entertained prior to qualifying. "I love this circuit," Trulli said, "and I have been competitive all weekend. The result is what I expected." He blamed the deficit to the fastest men on the car's limited top speed. Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, suffered from a lack of track time after his morning incidents.
Mark Webber was pretty much where he expected to be with a Jaguar that was running a reasonable fuel load, and the team was relatively happy given the strategy it had decided upon. Webber did 1m 16.237s for ninth place, team mate Antonio Pizzonia 1m 17.103s for 13th.
Between them, Cristiano da Matta was surprised to be as high as 10th for Toyota, which had hitherto been troubled by lack of grip. "It was much better than I expected," the Brazilian said. "I knew it was going to be a good lap right from the start, and that's how it turned out." Team mate Panis was mystified by his car's ongoing lap of grip, and was only 17th.
BAR was understandably a little down after Button's accident this morning, and had to be satisfied with Jacques Villeneuve's 11th place, just ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan. The Sauber's were 14th and 15th, Nick Heidfeld hurt by rear tyre graining which made him little quicker than Heinz-Harald Frentzen, even though the latter was running a lot more fuel.
Ralph Firman will start his first Monaco Grand Prix from 16th on the grid, and the two Minardis at the rear were separated by a chunk of time after Justin Wilson made a mistake on his qualifying lap.
Thus the stage is set for a tough race, where strategy and tyre wear will prove crucial factors. Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix starts at 2pm local time and will run for 78 laps.