Australian GP qualifying report

By Erica Southey- Viewers were greeted by a magnificent aerial view of the track. A lovely sunny day, other than the partly cloudy conditions forecasted for the Qualifying session. The first sign of activity came from the...

By Erica Southey-

Viewers were greeted by a magnificent aerial view of the track. A lovely sunny day, other than the partly cloudy conditions forecasted for the Qualifying session.

The first sign of activity came from the Minardi garage where Tarso Marques stood with his back to the camera looking at his car. The camera moved along to the McLaren garage where mechanics were busy on David Coulthard's car and then moved on to show Mika Hakkinen's car without the nose. The # 15 Arrows of Enrique Bernoldi stood on its own, ready to be taken out. The camera then moved on to the BMW Williams garage to show Ralf Schumacher's car without the nose and front wheels before giving a glimpse of Giancarlo Fisichella in the Benetton garage.

With precious minutes ticking away, the first to make an appearance on track, was Enrique Bernoldi in his Arrows. He looked fairly comfortable as he maneuvered the car around the track.

The all-familiar smile of Rubens Barrichello was evident as the Brazilian spoke to Ferrari race director, Jean Todt. Michael Schumacher on the other hand, was relaxed and stifled a yawn while looking out on the pit lane. Little sleep?

Heinz-Herald Frentzen appeared pensive as he leaned over the rear wing of his Jordan, holding it at both ends. One can only speculate at what goes through a driver's mind when off track at qualifying.

Action! Tarso Marques in the Minardi came out to prepare for his first flying lap. Marques appeared to be going fine, when he lost the back end of the car, going over the curb. He was over correcting the car, which caused it to get well out of hand which resulted in him losing a lot of time on his first flying lap.

Jacques Villeneuve was next, in the BAR. He appeared to be fighting with the car a little as the rear end went other where he wanted it to go. Jacques, despite a few mistakes moved up into provisional pole.

A sudden splurge of activity! A couple of cars came out. Fernando Alonso in the other Minardi had a neat lap, while Kimi Raikkonen was on a flyer. A mistake made him lose the back end of the car for a second, but he corrected it, losing a bit of time. He was 8th fastest in warm-ups earlier this morning.

Irvine went flying and swerved around Olivier Panis's BAR-Honda while Louise Jardine reported back to Martin and Murray that Jenson Button at the time was having a gearbox problem.

Michael Schumacher came out for his first round.

Surprise! Nick Heidfeld in the Sauber went up into second place.

Have the McLarens left it too late, by coming out with just over half an hour to spare? David Coulthard made a mistake and had to go back into the pits, losing even more time.

Teammate Mika Hakkinen appeared to have better fortune when he took pole away from Rubens Barrichello. That didn't last long, because Michael Schumacher responded by taking pole from Hakkinen.

Interesting fact is that Schumacher's time exceeded last year's qualifying time by just under 3 seconds.

The fact that the front wing is 50 mm's higher than last year, is perhaps a reason why a lot of the drivers struggled to keep the cars in check. They're used to having the wing lower.

David Coulthard gave it another try and was looking good until he lost the back end of the car over the curb touching the grass.

37 minutes into the session and Marques is outside the 107% qualifying time. Will he make it?

After a shot of Mika cutting over the grass, the camera moved back to show the Minardi of Marques, stuck in the gravel trap. This definitely means that he wasn't going to qualify, unless the team bosses give written permission that he may enter the race, despite not qualifying. We will only know tomorrow whether he made it or not. The other drivers will not want a driver on the track that is off pace.

The session got stopped nine minutes before the end of the session. A replay of Luciano Burti in his Jaguar losing it in the corner, slamming sideways into the wall, losing the left front and rear tyres completely, showed why the session was stopped. A shot of him standing talking to one marshal and afterwards taking a lift with another, showed that he was thankfully uninjured. This accident was a repeat of yesterday's second free practice. According to Martin Brundle, there may have been a left rear suspension problem by the look of the left rear of the car being low in comparison to the rest of the car.

The session restarted after about 4 minutes with cars pouring out on the track in great numbers.

Alesi in the Prost made an impression as he flew past Rubens Barrichello, but had to abort the lap and went into the pits.

The McLarens failed to respond to the challenge put out by Ferrari. Ralf Schumacher took 5th position from David Coulthard in the closing stages, while Mika could only muster 3rd, behind Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher.

Last year saw the McLarens taking 1st and 2nd, but they finished behind the Ferraris in the Australian GP. Will this be the case with the Ferraris - starting out well, but finishing lower?

The parting shot was of Rubens Barrichello, waving to the crowd before entering the post race scrutineering garage.

We wait in anticipation for an action packed Australian GP.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jenson Button , Luciano Burti , Ralf Schumacher , Enrique Bernoldi , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Tarso Marques , Martin Brundle , Jean Todt
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Minardi , Jordan