Ralf (BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin) will start from the front row, between the two Ferrari. Ferrari maintained its 100 per cent pole position record for the season prior to the Austrian Grand Prix - but it was Rubens Barrichello who stole the...
Ralf (BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin) will start from the front row, between the two Ferrari.
Ferrari maintained its 100 per cent pole position record for the season prior to the Austrian Grand Prix - but it was Rubens Barrichello who stole the show rather than his world championship-leading team-mate Michael Schumacher. The Brazilian, who has just re-signed for Ferrari until the end of the 2004 season, overcame a couple of off-track excursions in slippery conditions to lap in 1m 08.082s, 1.5 seconds faster than last season's pole time and 0.282 seconds clear of closest rival Ralf Schumacher (BMW Wi lliamsF1 Team/Michelin. The elder Schumacher - chasing his 58th career win tomorrow - qualified third. Ralf Shumacher who set the second time will start for the first time this season from the front row of the grid
The session proved to be fairly chaotic and had to be interrupted for 11 minutes because Jarno Trulli (Renault/Michelin) suffered a blown engine and coated the track with oil. Barrichello was one of several drivers caught out by the slippery surface, but his car was not seriously damaged despite him ploughing a long way through the gravel. The Brazilian also had a late scare when he almost collided with another car at about 300km/h (185mph) just before starting his final - and fastest - qualifying lap.
It was a positive day for the leading Michelin teams. Schumacher Jnr led team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya (fourth), Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes, eighth) and Mika Salo (Toyota, 10th) as five of the French company's cars qualified in the top 10. "We didn't expect to split the Ferraris today," Ralf said, "But the car, tyres and engine all felt good in today's conditions and Michael appeared to have a couple of problems that helped us to take the fight to them."
Jenson Button (Renault, 13th) led the rest of the Michelin runners ahead of Allan McNish (Toyota, 14th), Trulli (16th), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, 19th), Eddie Irvine )Jaguiar, 20th), Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 21st) and Alex Yoong (KL Minardi-Asiate ch, 22nd).
Michelin's day Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
Ralf Schumacher managed to split the two Ferraris today. How much of a surprise was that?
"It was a great lap by Ralf but I think we all saw that Michael Schumacher had a few problems. But that's the nature of the sport. He wasn't the only one in trouble today. Look at Juan Pablo Montoya in the second Williams-BMW ^Ö he had every kind of problem imaginable and that prevented him getting up to speed for a while. That's just the way things go sometimes. Generally, if you look at the grid it does not look terribly different from last year's. That's probably a sign that it suits some driver and chassis combinations more than it does others."
Ralf said that the Michelin tyres worked particularly well in today's hot conditions. How do you feel about that?
"What he said is fine by me. People are always drawing conclusions in this business, but just because our tyres seem to be less affected than those of our rival in hot temperatures is not the same as saying they don't perform well when it is cooler, which I believe they do."
Will we see both types of Michelin tyre - primary (A) and option (B) - in the race tomorrow? And do they react particularly differently?
"Yes, you will see both of them tomorrow. They have quite significantly different characteristics and we won't know how things are going to pan out until tomorrow. A lot will depend on what the weather does, of course. Conditions have been beautiful so far this weekend but the forecasts say that heavy rain and even thunder might not be far away."
Have you seen anything to make you think that this race might not favour traditional one-stop tactics tomorrow?
"Logically this is a one-stop race because heavier fuel loads do not usually take that much of a toll on tyres. I don't think any of our partner teams will make a final decision until the morning warm-up, however, when they have chance to do some last-minu te checks with full fuel loads."