World champion Michael Schumacher dominated the first Formula 1 qualifying session of the year prior to the Australian Grand Prix, opening round of the 2001 world champion ship. His 1m 26.892s lap was 3.7 seconds faster than last year's ...
World champion Michael Schumacher dominated the first Formula 1 qualifying session of the year prior to the Australian Grand Prix, opening round of the 2001 world champion ship. His 1m 26.892s lap was 3.7 seconds faster than last year's corresponding pole position time and is the fastest ever seen at Melbourne's Albert Park track. Showing no ill-effects from his spectacular crash during free practice the previous day, the German comfortably outpaced his rivals and was 0.371s faster than his closest challenger, Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello. On Michelin's return to F1 racing, Schumacher's younger brother Ralf completed a good day for the family. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team driver, who was sixth fastest in this morning's final free practice, went one better and qualified fifth after lapping in 1m 27.719s in the closing moments of the session less than a second off the pole.
He commented: "The tyres worked better today in the hot conditions. Michelin has a good tyre, but of course it is very difficult for them, coming here with no experience at all. They can't be expected to have the perfect tyre, so we have to adjust the car accordingly to make the best out of it."
Schumacher Jnr lines up behind Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan). His BMW WilliamsF1 team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya will start 11th as fastest of this weekend's F1 newcomers, although he was poised to qualify in the top 10 until his final lap was compromised by a slower car that blocked him. Prior to their final qualifying runs, he had been just 0.3 seconds slower than Ralf.
Eddie Irvine was third fastest Michelin driver in 12th place but it was a - dramatic day for his Jaguar Racing team . His rookie team-mate Luciano - Burti crashed heavily and caused the qualifying session briefly to be interrupted. Burti was uninjured but his car was wrecked. He will start tomorrow's race from 21st place on the grid. Irvine's car was slightly damaged when he ran into debris from Burti's accident.
The Prost-Acer team has shown signs of progress after its disappointing 2000 season and Jean Alesi lines up 14 th, while Gaston Mazzacane starts 20th in the second car. Benetton Renault Sport drivers Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella are 16th and 17th on the grid. Englishman Button has suffered a number of technical problems during the weekend and pipped his Italian team -mate in the final moments of qualifying. The tidy driving of Spanish teenager Fernando Alonso (European Minardi) has attracted a number of favorable comments on his F1 debut and he lines up 19th in his team's untested chassis. The second Minardi of Tarso Marques did not meet the base qualifying time, after the young Brazilian spun into a grave l trap. However, he will be allowed to start following a derogation from the stewards.
Pierre Dupasquier ( Motorsport Director ): "For our first qualifying session, we are very happy to be able to congratulate the BMW WilliamsF1 Team for their excellent work, the obvious quality of the engine and of the car in general. We are pleased to have been able to provide the right solution for this demonstration, despite the fact that we came here without the previous knowledge and experience that can make all the difference in the search for performance."
"As we expected, over the two days the circuit is very progressive with the rate of tyre wear lessening with every session. In fact, this is one of the `softest' tracks on tyres throughout the year."