MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, March 3,2001 -European Minardi F1's first qualifying session was nothing if not eventful. Spanish teenage sensation, Fernando Alonso, ran strongly throughout both of today's practice sessions for this Sunday's Qantas ...
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, March 3,2001 -European Minardi F1's first qualifying session was nothing if not eventful. Spanish teenage sensation, Fernando Alonso, ran strongly throughout both of today's practice sessions for this Sunday's Qantas Australian Grand Prix. After a polished performance, he qualified 19th for his first-ever Grand Prix.
By comparison, team mate, Tarso Marques, had a tough time of it, the young Brazilian struggling with braking problems that contributed to spins in both practice and qualifying. Combined with a cooling system leak that lost him time in the garage, he found himselfjust under a second shy of the maximum permissible qualifying time (107 per cent of the pole position time). With a scant five minutes of the one-hour qualifying session remaining, the European Minardi mechanics switched Marques' seat to Alonso's car, fitted a fresh set of tyres and sent him out for a final qualifying run. Despite knocking 0.673 sec off his previous best lap time, Marques was just outside the qualifying threshold by the narrowest of margins. European Minardi F1 team members subsequently discussed the matter with the FIA Stewards of the Meeting, who decided that "exceptional circumstances" had affected Marques' qualifying effort and duly cleared him to race in tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix.
Position 19th Time 1:30.657
"We made a few changes on the car for qualifying, which were tested in the morning's free practice session. EveIything went well in qualifying trim. I was not at all concerned, except for the fact that, in the qualifying session, you can only do your best lap once with each set of tyres, and therefore I could not take too many risks given that I hadn't a spare car at my disposal. I pushed a bit harder only towards the end of the session, when I was sure the time I had set allowed me to qualify, but then I missed a braking point, losing almost half of a second. If not for that, I would have gained at least four positions. I feel a bit disappointed, but overall, I'm pleased with the outcome, especially considering the car had never tested before."
Position 22nd Time 1:33.228
"It has been a difficult day, but at least I'm in the race. The car had been nervous on the brakes all day, despite changes that we made. The back end of the car just got away from me in Tum 3 on my third run of the afternoon and I spun. I got a lift back to the garage and was able to take over Fernando's car for my final run. It was pretty uncomfortable because, despite the fact the mechanics had fitted my seat, I am taller than Fernando and the pedals were different. I improved my time by nearly seven-tenths of a second, but it just wasn't quite enough. Anyway, I am very pleased that the stewards have decided to let me race tomomow. Hopefully, we have got all the bad luck out of the way today, and the race will be much better for us."
Team Principal, European Minardi F1
"Today sees a just reward for six-and-a-half weeks of relentless effort by everyone in the European Minardi F1 team. I think this weekend we have earned the respect of our peers in the pit lane, and after Fernando's performance today, people have stopped asking me about the surprise I had been promising they now know. I really feel for two days, but I can only praise his performance, and those of his mechanics, in the closing stages of today's qualifying session. In the end, he was within 107 per cent of everyone except Michael Schumacher, who really put in a stunning qualifying lap. I'm so pleased the Stewards have decided to include Tarso in tomomow's race. We definitely haven't seen the best of him yef and I'm sure with some testing under his belt, both European Minardi F l s will become fully competitive.