RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN SO NEAR YET SO FAR World champion Michael Schumacher says he feels particularly comfortable at Spa. It was here that he made his Formula One debut in 1991, here that he scored his maiden grand prix victory one year later -- and it ...
RÄIKKÖNEN SO NEAR YET SO FAR
World champion Michael Schumacher says he feels particularly comfortable at Spa. It was here that he made his Formula One debut in 1991, here that he scored his maiden grand prix victory one year later -- and it is here that he is attempting to score a record-breaking 10th win of the season. Rising McLaren-Mercedes star Kimi Räikkönen proved that Michelin will be a threat in tomorrow's race by posting second fastest time, 0.424s adrift.
With the exception of the familiar challenge posed by Schumacher and his team-mate Rubens Barrichello, first and third respectively, Michelin cars monopolised the qualifying session and took nine of the top 12 positions. It is the best qualifying position of Räikkönen's career and he said: "Obviously I'm happy with my first Formula One front row but I believe there was a chance to further improve my time at the end. However there was sand on the track and also got the car a little out of shape at the double left-hander because I was pushing very hard."
Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) was fourth fastest ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW Williams F1 Team, fifth), David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes, sixth), Jarno Trulli (Renault, seventh), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing) gave the team a much needed boost today by finishing eighth. "We have certainly gone quicker than even we expected and all the credit must go to Michelin for producing a good compound." Mika Salo (Toyota) finished ninth ahead of Jenson Button (Renault, 10th) and Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, 11th).
Of the other Michelin runners Allan McNish (Toyota) was 13th and the KL Minardi-Asiatechs of Mark Webber and Anthony Davidson qualified comfortably in 19th and 20th positions.
The circuit's new safety-influenced changes worked well and there were very few major incidents. Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan-Honda) and Jacques Villeneuve (BAR-Honda) both spun off, while Villeneuve's team-mate Olivier Panis suffered an engine failure. The Arrows team did not take part in qualifying. After failing to complete a buyout deal with a new investor, it withdrew from the meeting yesterday.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier, motorsport director
You said yesterday that Friday's lap times don't necessarily reflect what will happen for the rest of the weekend, but today's result was not too dissimilar to yesterday's...
"True, except that today we did not set fastest time... That said, it was extremely satisfying to see nine of our cars in the top 12. Most of our partner teams have been consistently on the pace so far this weekend. The race might produce a different story, of course, but so far I am very pleased with the way both our dry-weather tyres have performed."
In yesterday's warm conditions most of your partner teams preferred your softer, option (B) tyre. Will that be the only one used in the race?
"No. Both our compounds will be used tomorrow and I think the split is about 50/50. If it stays dry it will be interesting to see what happens with the temperature. It could have a significant influence on the race."
Technically have you learned very much today?
"Track conditions usually change dramatically during the course of a weekend but at Spa they have not evolved a great deal since yesterday. The latest data we have accumulated pretty much confirmed what we found out during Friday's free practice."
Traditionally this is two-stop race, but the pit lane entry has changed this year and drivers might lose more time entering the pits than they did in the past. Have you seen anything that makes you think race tactics might change?
"Based on the simulations we have, teams are likely to favour two stops. You lose lots of time on a heavy fuel load here -- 10 kilograms in weight will cost you about four-tenths of a second per lap."