An intense and close qualifying session saw Benson and Hedges Jordan Honda drivers Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen qualify fifth and ninth for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix. Trulli overcame time lost earlier in the day through a ...
An intense and close qualifying session saw Benson and Hedges Jordan Honda drivers Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen qualify fifth and ninth for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Trulli overcame time lost earlier in the day through a mechanical problem and Frentzen slipped a few places when other drivers were marginally quicker during the final minutes.
'I'm actually a little disappointed,' said Trulli. 'The car was well balanced but I couldn't push as hard as I wanted because I didn't know the car well enough. I lost a lot of running time this morning when the car developed an electrical misfire and that prevented me from fine-tuning the set-up. The times were so close that you needed to push to the maximum, and I didn't feel I could do that, particularly after going off the road briefly on my first flying lap! It was very hot again today but you don't notice it so much when driving. It's only when you go back to the garage that you really feel the heat: you can feel it in the air but also coming from the car. It's going to be a hard race - very tough.'
Frentzen's best time was initially good enough for sixth place. But, in the space of 10 seconds, he was demoted to ninth as three drivers improved as qualifying drew to a close.
'It's obviously very close in the mid-field,' said Frentzen. 'There was nothing wrong with the car. I understeered off the road briefly on my third run and just missed out on my fourth and last run. But, despite the disappointment, I feel good about the race because the car is handling well.'
At the end of a dramatic hour-long qualifying session, the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello filled the front row of the grid.
But it had been a tough fight with the Williams-BMW of Ralf Schumacher, Michael's younger brother having held pole position before seeing his time beaten by the red cars in the closing stages. Juan Pablo Montoya, sixth fastest for Williams, felt he would have been as quick as his team-mate had he not made a mistake at the last corner on what would have been an even faster lap for the Colombian.
The major surprise of qualifying was a disappointing performance by McLaren-Mercedes. It was only a last-ditch effort by Mika Hakkinen which put him into fourth place. Both drivers complained of poor balance on their cars and David Coulthard had to be satisfied with eighth fastest time. The speed trap times suggested the Mercedes engine may also be down on power.
Eddie Irvine had a power steering failure on his Jaguar while trying to improve on 12th place, Jenson Button struggling with handling problems as he qualified his Benetton 17th, one place behind his team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella.
'That was a fantastic qualifying session,' said Eddie Jordan. 'Jarno did a good job recovering from the problems he had in the morning. Naturally Heinz-Harald is a bit disappointed to be back on the fifth row, particularly when the car is working well. The race is going to be a different story, of course. There are a lot of unknowns, particularly the Michelin tyres used by Williams. Certainly, they were good for a fast lap in qualifying but we don't know how they are going to perform during a 56-lap race - particularly in this heat. I think this is probably the hottest St Patrick's Day I've ever experienced!'
- Jordan Grand Prix