Saturday qualifying review - Barrichello's pole 19 Jul 2003
A Ferrari will start tomorrow's British Grand Prix from pole position, but it won't be the one that most people expected. As Rubens Barrichello lucked into the better weather conditions, having spun on his qualifying lap yesterday and thus started sooner, Michael Schumacher had to be content with fifth place.
Many had anticipated that rain might spoil the final session that decides the grid, but in the end the weather forecasts proved a little wide of the mark and instead it was wind that spoiled things for the men who had been faster yesterday.
It was beginning to gather strength even when seventh runner Nick Heidfeld went out in his Sauber, and it got worse as 14th and 15th men out, David Coulthard and Jarno Trulli, departed the pits. It was at its peak, however, when the fastest five men from Friday took their turns at the end of the hour.
Running second, Barrichello made the most of tranquil conditions to lap in 1m 21.209s, in a much higher temperature than there had been for morning practice. Nobody else got near that as some of the slower runners made their runs, but that was to be expected. Justin Wilson was delighted to out-qualify Jos Verstappen after a troubled weekend, then Giancarlo Fisichella shaded Jordan team mate Ralph Firman by almost a second. At Sauber it was Heinz-Harald Frentzen who had the upper hand, despite missing the apex at Abbey after pushing too hard.
When Jacques Villeneuve managed 1m 22.591s to go second for BAR, that too could have been expected. He was displaced by Kimi Raikkonen, but the suspicion that McLaren was running a heavy fuel load was apparently confirmed as the Finn lapped in 1m 21.695s. Cristiano da Matta then sprung the first real surprise with 1m 22.081s, driving the spare Toyota TF103 after his intended race car developed an hydraulic leak. "I was pretty surprised that it stayed good enough for sixth," he admitted later, "but the balance was the best it's been all weekend."
When Jenson Button came out for BAR much was expected, but he only got as far as the exit kerb to Becketts when a particularly hard impact between his left front wheel and the kerb damaged the pushrod in that side's suspension. He pulled off, obliged to start his fourth British Grand Prix from the back of the grid.
There was another surprise when a couple of small mistakes had a significant effect on Mark Webber's lap time and he was out-qualified by Jaguar team mate Antonio Pizzonia, and that was perhaps the first indication of what was the come. Nobody who followed achieved what was expected of them.
First Coulthard managed a disappointing 1m 22.811s which would leave his McLaren only 12th. "I ran wide at Stowe and Club and there was just too much understeer still after the warm-up," the Scot revealed. "We tried a change to the balance of the car, but it just didn't work."
Next, Trulli managed a strong 1m 21.381s for Renault, which was the closest anyone got to Barrichello. "I'm very pleased with my time, especially considering the effect of the wind," the Italian said.
Much was expected of Olivier Panis after his performances yesterday and this morning, but ultimately the French veteran's day ended with big oversteer in the third sector and general disappointment as his 1m 23.042s left him only 13th for Toyota.
By now it was clear that the wind was hurting lap times, in particular a tailwind down Vale robbing cars of downforce. But perhaps Fernando Alonso would tackle the Ferrari? The impact of the wind was well and truly brought home as the Spaniard's effort yielded only 1m 22.404s for an eventual eighth place.
Both Williams drivers suffered too, their cars visibly understeering in the conditions. They both gave it everything, but came up short. Ralf Schumacher finished fourth on 1m 21.727s, Juan Pablo Montoya seventh on 1m 22.214s.
So finally it all came down to Michael Schumacher. In the first sector the champion was 0.006s quicker than his team mate, but then a grassy moment on the exit to Abbey turned that into a 0.456s deficit at the end of the second, and the moment had passed. Schumacher did a fine job to catch the slide, but 1m 21.867s left him only fifth, creating an unusual and exciting grid mix for tomorrow's race.
"After all the problems I had yesterday, it's hard to believe how things have turned around for me today," a delighted Barrichello said. "Now I am in a very good position to make this into something good tomorrow."
It remains to be seen if the weather will throw another spanner into the works, but either way the Ferrari driver may be set to break his run of misfortune.
For qualifying times in full click here.