Air Temperature:33Â°C Track Temperature: 39Â°C The Ferraris of world champion Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have locked out the front row of the grid for the second Formula 1 race in succession during ...
Track Temperature: 39°C
The Ferraris of world champion Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have locked out the front row of the grid for the second Formula 1 race in succession during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. They were hard pressed all the way, however, by Schumacher's younger brother Ralf, who matched the best performance of his career by qualifying his Michelin-equipped BMW -Williams third fastest, just 0.291s slower than his brother.
In one of the most exciting sessions for several seasons, the balance of power constantly shifted between the two Schumachers and Barrichello. Eventually, however, the elder of the German brothers clinched pole with his fourth and final run. He was less than one tenth of a second clear of team-mate Barrichello.
Ralf's performance was a fillip for Michelin, which had not run its Formula 1 tyres at Sepang prior to this weekend. His team -mate Juan Pablo Montoya underlined the effectiveness of the British team's challenge by qualifying sixth for only his second grand prix start. The 25 -year-old Colombian might have fared slightly better, too, but for a spin on the third of h is four laps.
It was a difficult session for Ferrari's traditional arch -rival McLaren; Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard were only fourth and eighth fastest - the team's worst performance since the 1999 French GP at Magny - Cours. Ralf Schumacher has warned that the multiple champion team's chances should not be written off, however. "We are happy with what we have achieved," he said, "but the race will be tough tomorrow. It's not just Ferrari. McLaren was off the pace in qualifying for the previous grand pr ix race in Australia, but I expect them to be strong in the race."
Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing) was third fastest of the Michelin runners, in 12th place. To emphasise how competitive the 2001 season is shaping up to be, Irvine lapped within one second of Jarno Trulli's Jordan, which is fifth on the grid.
After his troubled start to the season in Australia, Irvine's team -mate Luciano Burti has had a less fraught weekend in Malaysia so far and qualified 15th, immediately ahead of closely-matched Benetton Renault Sport drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button.
The Prost -Acer team has also made progress since Melbourne. Jean Alesi, grand prix racing's most experienced campaigner, will start the race from 13th on the grid, seven places in front of his team-mate Gaston Mazzacane, who is taking part in only his second season of F1 racing. European Minardi drivers Tarso Marques and Fernando Alonso are 21st and 22nd; both were delayed by off -course excursions during qualifying.
Pierre Du pasquier (Motorsport Director):
"This is obviously a good performance, which is the result of both the continuous work from our side and the superb efforts put in by our partners. We have been able to see clearly the progress made by our partner teams si nce Friday morning. Compared to Australia, this circuit does not have the same changing character and we have therefore been able to work in conjunction with the teams to find the best overall package of tyre and vehicle set-up. Clearly the combination o f Ralf Schumacher and the BMW Williams is very good here."
"There is obviously the question -mark on wear here in Sepang and we saw last year that some of our competitor's tyres were completely slick by the end of the race. As for this year we really don' t know yet, but for sure wear rates will be high. Our tyres seem to be very constant and I think that the least demanding cars should be able to complete half -race distance with no problem. However, perhaps some of the teams will decide to go for two stops. Downforce is the key to making tyres last, so I think from what we have seen we can imagine that the Ferraris will be more economic on tyre wear."