Qualifying at the A1-Ring promised much for Jaguar Racing after Johnny Herbert was sixth fastest in final practice on Saturday morning. With Eddie Irvine absent, and the team focussing its main effort on Johnny as supersub Luciano Burti found his...
Qualifying at the A1-Ring promised much for Jaguar Racing after Johnny Herbert was sixth fastest in final practice on Saturday morning. With Eddie Irvine absent, and the team focussing its main effort on Johnny as supersub Luciano Burti found his feet, there was a clear opportunity for him to repeat Stewart's Austrian form of 1999, when Rubens Barrichello and Johnny qualified fifth and sixth.
Unfortunately, that promise was not fulfilled, and Johnny ended up in 16th place with a time of 1m12.238s. Right at the end of the session he had to park when the rear suspension broke, and Johnny felt that a developing problem had cost him time.
"We found that that a suspension bracket was loose," said Johnny, "and that was probably one of the reasons why I lost performance. Then on the last run the suspension actually broke, probably because it was loose and causing it to move. A rear wishbone was flexing when it shouldn't have been. So that didn't really help. So it was just damn frustrating. I could have got my nose in the top 10, but we'll never know, because I never got the chance.
"We now have the usual problem of starting from way down the grid, so we'll have a tough race. But as long as we can get the balance right we'll be able to fight back as our pace was good in race spec."
The team was equally disappointed that the R1's potential had not been fulfilled. "The car was reasonably good on new tyres on the first lap," said technical director Gary Anderson. "We went to qualifying and nothing was really wrong, but the lap time was not there. When you're 1.5s slower on your first lap than you were in the morning, you're not building from anything. I don't know how you get out of that situation. As for the race, we face an uphill battle, and can only hope the attrition plays into our hands."
Luciano Burti had never driven the A1-Ring before practice this morning, but at the end of the qualifying session for the Austrian Grand Prix he was in 21st place - an incredible performance. What's more, despite his limited knowledge of the circuit - and the fact that it was the first time he'd driven the car in qualifying trim with a low fuel load - he was just 0.584s slower than team-mate Johnny Herbert .
"I'm pleased with my performance today, considering that I hadn't driven on this track before this morning and even then only did a few laps," said Luciano. "It's also the first time I've driven the R1 in qualifying trim, so I had to spend time finding the limit of the car. I think just to be close to the other drivers here is an achievement for me, so I'm happy and looking forward to tomorrow."
The team does not need any convincing of Burti's potential, having seen him perform so well in testing this year.
"Luciano is stepping up to the job really well," said technical director Gary Anderson. "Unfortunately, he's not had a very good run. This morning we had a clutch problem, which came from yesterday's problem with the electrics. So we lost the first half of the morning session and he only did a few laps on a circuit he'd not seen before. But he did a good job. It's all about confidence. There's heavy braking in Turns 1, 2 and 3, and the last two need a bit of commitment. You need a bit of time just to find the bumps and so on.
"He's done a lot of testing with us, so we know him pretty well, and he knows the car pretty well. So it's not too difficult to take it forward from where it is now. He's obviously got to push and push."
Slotting the Brazilian into Irvine's car was not the work of a moment, and involved shipping some parts - along with Burti's personal kit - from England.
"Eddie and Luciano are are roughly the same size, but the difference is that Luciano brakes with his right foot, while Eddie brakes with his left all the time," said Gary. "So the pedals are all different in the car. We had a spare driver with us, but he didn't have overalls, helmet, boots or pedals, so we had to have it all sent over last night. At least his seat was here!"