Giancarlo Fisichella will start tomorrow's opening round of the 2002 Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, Australia, from the 4th row of the grid after setting the 8th fastest time in his DHL Jordan Honda EJ12. In a session interrupted...
Giancarlo Fisichella will start tomorrow's opening round of the 2002 Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, Australia, from the 4th row of the grid after setting the 8th fastest time in his DHL Jordan Honda EJ12. In a session interrupted early on by a red flag when the second Jordan of Takuma Sato became stranded on the track, and also badly affected by rain which arrived with some 25 minutes of qualifying remaining, it was left to Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari to claim pole position with team mate Michael Schumacher second.
For the DHL Jordan Honda team the session brought mixed fortunes and high drama. Giancarlo Fisichella's first qualifying run was ruined when first he had to let Juan Pablo Montoya's BMW Williams past and then a yellow flag caused by Takuma Sato's car being stranded on the track. His second run went superbly, the Italian scything around the track to set a time of 1m27.869s which put him third fastest, though he then dropped back to 8th behind the Ferraris, Williams', McLarens and Jarno Trulli's Renault.
Confident that he would go faster on his third run, Giancarlo was forced to abandon any such hopes when the rains arrived.
"I am very happy with this performance," said Giancarlo afterwards. "It was my target to be in the top 8 and the car had a good feeling. It was well balanced and I am feeling confident for tomorrow. And if it's wet that's fine!"
For Takuma Sato qualifying could only be described as character building. Following his accident during morning practice he was forced to start qualifying in the team's T-car, but before he could even set a time he was forced to pull off the track with a hydraulics problem. His stranded car caused the session to be halted and Taku returned to the pits where he had to wait for Giancarlo Fisichella to complete his qualifying runs before taking over the Italian's car. By the time Giancarlo had vacated his car, however, the rain had arrived and Taku was forced to complete a handful of laps in atrocious conditions and with an extremely uncomfortable seating position. As a result he set a time well outside the 107% rule and must now wait for the race Stewards to decide whether or not he can start from the back of the grid in tomorrow's race.
"Today was a tough day," admitted Taku. "I did my best and what happened was nobody's fault. Mechanical problems do happen. It was very difficult to drive Giancarlo's car in the wet. It was his seating position and, for example, I had no heel rest so I was pushing the pedals with my feet in the air! Also the car had a dry set-up."
Behind Fisichella's Jordan Honda came the two Saubers of Felipe Massa and Nick Heidfeld, while Jensen Button's 11th placed Renault was followed by the BAR Hondas of Panis and Villeneuve. Mike Salo was the fastest of the Toyotas in 14th slot, team mate Allan McNish 16th, these two sandwiching Frentzen's Arrows. Bernoldi was 17th in his Arrows, Mark Webber qualified 18th on his Grand Prix debut for Minardi on home soil, beating the two Jaguars of Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa, while Alex Yoong was the final qualifier.
The DHL Jordan Honda team is now waiting to hear the outcome of the Steward's decision regarding Takuma Sato - though on the basis of his fastest practice lap of 1m30.914s he was well inside the 107% qualifying time of 1m31.852s.