Austrian GP: Michelin Friday qualifying notes

JAGUAR HEADS THE CHASE AFTER SCHUEY'S OPENING SALVO World champion Michael Schumacher set the pace in the opening qualifying of the Austrian Grand Prix. The German was only 0.279s faster than team-mate Rubens Barrichello, but the margin would...

JAGUAR HEADS THE CHASE AFTER SCHUEY'S OPENING SALVO

World champion Michael Schumacher set the pace in the opening qualifying of the Austrian Grand Prix. The German was only 0.279s faster than team-mate Rubens Barrichello, but the margin would have been greater had he not made a mistake at the final corner and fish-tailed onto the main straight. Whoever wins this weekend will create a small footnote in motor racing history because this is scheduled to be the final Austrian GP -- for the foreseeable future, at least. Mark Webber (Jaguar Racing) was the quickest of the Michelin drivers (third).

In his first race since extending his Jaguar deal until the end of 2005, Mark Webber spearheaded the Michelin challenge with another excellent qualifying performance. The Australian was third fastest and received solid support from team-mate Antonio Pizzonia, who was ninth.

Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) was sixth, but his team-mate Ralf Schumacher had a difficult time. The Austria-domiciled German spun off and ended his session in the Turn Three gravel trap. He will thus have to run at the start of tomorrow's final session, when track conditions are likely to be slightly less favourable. Schumacher caused one of two red-flag stoppages during the session. Jordan rookie Ralph Firman was the other culprit: he crashed as he crossed the finishing line and was travelling backwards when he passed through the timing beam.

David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) was third quickest of the Michelin drivers. Fastest in this morning's free practice session, the Scot put together a clean lap this afternoon to be seventh overall. Coulthard's world championship-leading team-mate Kimi Räikkönen was first driver on track today and emerged eighth fastest. The Finn is looking to get his season back on track. After recording four consecutive podium finishes at the start of the campaign, he retired from the previous race in Barcelona after being involved in a start-line accident.

Of the other Michelin runners, Renault stars Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso ended up 11th and 13th respectively and Toyota drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta 14th and 16th.

Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director

ON YOUR MARKS...
In his first race since extending his deal with Michelin partner Jaguar until the end of 2005, Mark Webber underlined his growing stature with another excellent qualifying run today. The Australian was third fastest and one of five Michelin drivers in the top 10, ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, sixth), David Coulthard (West McLaren Mercedes, seventh), Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes, eighth) and Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar, ninth). Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "We know the level of fuel that drivers run on a Friday -- but we don't know quite how soft some of our rivals' tyres might be. We do know, however, that the compound Mark Webber used today could be used in the race on Sunday without any problems -- and that is very reassuring."

GETTING THEIR PREP DONE ON TIME
Michelin has brought four different types of dry-weather tyre to Austria -- and has been pleased with the way they have performed during today's test, free practice and qualifying sessions. Pierre Dupasquier: "We have been able to get through some very useful preparation work and I believe that will stand us in good stead tomorrow. The track was in pretty good shape this morning but conditions have changed very dramatically during the day, from cool to very hot, and this obviously affects things when you are working with tyres that are fine-tuned to operate efficiently in certain conditions. Overall, though, I am extremely satisfied with what he have achieved."

THE LAST ONE ?
This weekend's Austrian GP is scheduled to be the last for the foreseeable future -- and the country holds fond motor sporting memories for Pierre Dupasquier: "I remember very well the first time Michelin raced here, at the old, high-speed Österreichring -- fore-runner to the current track. It was an endurance race, in 1975, and during the build-up one of our rivals had been saying that we were a very nice bunch of people, but that motor sport really wasn't our cup of tea. A ferocious storm delayed the start by 45 minutes but, when the race finally started on a soaking-wet track, Patrick Depailler's Michelin-equipped Renault sports-prototype shot away and was more than six seconds clear of the field by the end of the opening lap."

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Jaguar Racing , Jordan