After a problem-free and highly productive start on Friday to the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, today's final practise and qualifying sessions turned out to be rather more problematic for the European Minardi Cosworth team. Drivers Justin Wilson...
After a problem-free and highly productive start on Friday to the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, today's final practise and qualifying sessions turned out to be rather more problematic for the European Minardi Cosworth team. Drivers Justin Wilson and Jos Verstappen eventually claimed the 18th and 20th positions on the grid for tomorrow's sixth round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, Wilson struggling with a handling imbalance and Verstappen failing to complete his qualifying run as the result of a gearbox breakage.
The difficulties, however, began earlier in the day. The Dutch driver's car developed a minor electrical problem during the second run of the morning's opening practice session, although this was dealt with quickly and he was able to carry on with the day's technical programme in the second 45-minute session. Wilson, like Verstappen, continued to work on fine-tuning the handling balance of his car during the morning and also spent time scrubbing several sets of tyres for tomorrow's race.
On his seventh run of the day, however, and less than 10 minutes from the end of the final practice session, his car ran off the circuit at Turn 1 and made contact with the trackside barriers. Wilson was unharmed, with damage to the car confined to the nose, front wing and left front suspension components, but as a precaution, he was switched to the spare chassis for the final qualifying session. Despite today's tribulations, though, the team did make useful progress, which it hopes can be turned to advantage in Sunday's race.
"It's very disappointing. I seemed to pick up a chassis imbalance, which caused a problem in qualifying. The weekend started really well, but we seem to have had difficulties in the afternoons, so perhaps they are track or temperature-related. We'll now just have to concentrate on the race and work out a good strategy for tomorrow."
"That was a real shame not to have completed qualifying, because we made some good progress on aerodynamic work this morning and had a good balance in the chassis by the end of the practice session. As a result, I think we could have been in 16th or17th position on the grid for tomorrow's race. The problem in qualifying first showed itself on my flying lap, as I was braking into Turn 1 and downshifting, and suddenly had a big, oversteering slide. I then started to shift up through the gears as I exited the corner, but when I got to fifth gear, there was just no drive. Hopefully, we will have better luck tomorrow."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, European Minardi Cosworth:
"After what started as a very promising weekend, today was fraught with misfortune. It began with Justin's brush with the barriers at the first corner in the morning practice session, which necessitated him using the spare car for qualifying, and was followed by a disastrous qualifying session, in which he was unable to match his earlier pace. Adding to the woes, Jos's qualifying effort was then curtailed by a fifth-gear failure at the start of his flying lap. We can only hope for a better day on Sunday."
Chassis: PS03/04 (No 18)
Spare: PS03/029 (Used in qualifying)
Best lap: 1 min 14.508 secs
Chassis: PS03/03 (No 19)
Best lap: No time