Bridgestone runners dominated the first qualifying session of the new Formula 1 season this afternoon with Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello claiming top spot in the new style qualifying procedure ahead of Kimi Raikkonnen and fellow Bridgestone runner,...
Bridgestone runners dominated the first qualifying session of the new Formula 1 season this afternoon with Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello claiming top spot in the new style qualifying procedure ahead of Kimi Raikkonnen and fellow Bridgestone runner, B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve. No fewer than four of the top six places in the first of two qualifying sessions went to Bridgestone runners. The final decider tomorrow afternoon will see the running order reversed with Barrichello going out last to set his grid deciding time.
The 2003 FIA Formula 1 World Championship got off to a flying start today however with the day's activities commencing early this morning. The new two-hour test session provided two of the five Bridgestone supplied teams, Jordan Ford and European Minardi Cosworth, with a prime opportunity to start setting up their cars ahead of the first official practice session and this afternoon's first qualifying session.
All five teams on Bridgestone tyres produced encouraging performances today. With this morning's sessions enabling the teams to test their two specifications, Bridgestone-shod runners took four of the top six places in the first qualifying session. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher swept the track running first in the session and producing a time of 1m27.103s. His teammate Barrichello promptly bettered his time with a stunning 1m26.372s - a time that stood for the remainder of the session. Following a difficult morning's session, Villeneuve posted third fastest time of 1m26.832s in his T-car pushing Schumacher down to fourth. B.A.R Honda teammate Jenson Button also qualified well with a 1m27.159s, good enough for fifth.
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager of Bridgestone Motorsport, said: "I am generally very pleased with our performance so far. Our single lap qualifying performance in particular was encouraging. This afternoon's session was a new experience and produced some interesting results. Rubens' time was fantastic and I am very happy that both Ferrari and the B.A.R Honda teams showed good performance. This morning's practice session enabled most of our teams to test their primary option tyre. However, both specifications seemed to be working well and we didn't foresee any problems for later in the day. We are happy so far with our specifications. Let's hope tomorrow we can do it again!"
Ross Brawn, Technical Director of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, said: "Very difficult to judge this afternoon's session particularly with Michael going out first on a dusty track. Rubens did a superb job though. Both drivers were on the same specification tyre and although Michael struggled a bit to get the performance, the tyres had performed well in this morning's practice session and track conditions were out of our control this afternoon."
Geoff Willis, Technical Director of Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda, said: "That was a very good session for both drivers and the team worked very well. From pre-season testing, we were certainly a little concerned about the competition in one-lap performance but I have to say here, the Bridgestone tyres look very strong indeed. I was pleased with the consistency and the way they held up throughout the lap."