Qualifying Report At the start of the session it was the Jordan of Barrichello which was setting the pace, with a 1m19.186s. Panis set a 1m20.426, whilst Coulthard could only manage a 1m20.289. There were dramas, however, in the Ferrari camp...
At the start of the session it was the Jordan of Barrichello which was setting the pace, with a 1m19.186s. Panis set a 1m20.426, whilst Coulthard could only manage a 1m20.289. There were dramas, however, in the Ferrari camp with Schumacher needing a new engine due to a fluid leak in the morning, and Irvine having a small engine fire. With 6 minutes gone the top 6 had an odd look to it: Barrichello, Salo, Herbert, Coulthard, Panis, & Katayama all covered by 1.241 seconds. Surely Rubens would lose his pole soon. It wasn't long before Villeneuve went out to try and claim the Williams' rightful crown. Hakkinen meanwhile was moving, and was up to second on the grid. Alesi looked set to take pole, being inside by 0.2s at the second split. It all went wrong on the third section, where Alesi lost half a second to settle for second.
Villeneuve, meanwhile, didn't take the pole for Williams. He did his warm up lap and then returned to the pits. Then the session was stopped with 12 minutes gone. Both of the Ligiers had gone off the tracks, and also Hakkinen's McLaren. The drama, however, was to do with Diniz's Ligier which had stopped just off the track. The marshals, on the correct side of the car, were narrowly avoided by an errant Alesi who took a quick cross country trip over the local aggregate sites. Positions at the stoppage: Barrichello, Alesi, Hakkinen, Salo, Herbert, Verstappen, Coulthard, Schumacher, Panis, Katayama, Rosset, Marques, Lamy, Badoer, Montermini, with Berger, Villeneuve and Diniz in the 107% zone. Diniz's time being a particularly impressive 7m43.183s - some 584% off the pace. Very nice. However, this lap was achieved on the back of a breakdown truck.
Hill was out early in the restarted session, and was soon on the pace. He just took pole from Barrichello with a 1m18.983s. Villeneuve was also out, but a good 1.5 seconds off Hill's pace, 1m20.397 only being good enough for 11th. Top 6: Hill, Barrichello, Alesi, Hakkinen, Brundle, Salo
Irvine was on the track and looking spectacular, if a second a lap slower than Hill. Schumacher was also out, and managed a 1m19.576s - 5th on the grid. At this stage, Berger and Diniz were still in the 107% zone. Diniz's problem had extended to 586%, but then once you get to the multiple hundred level what is another couple of percent? Brundle tried hard to move up the pile, but was hindered when he took a fancy to the curbs, losing a second in the process. Alesi, meanwhile, looked mighty in the first two splits, but managed to lose it all in the last split and some. The last split cost him half a second, and only lasted about 10 seconds... Berger was still in the 107% zone, and went out - he had suffered enough embarassment for the day. A 1m19.7 was good enough for 7th at the time. Hill managed to slaughter his own time to a 1m18.111s. How Diniz must have breathed a sigh of relief that he had now qualified. A 593% would have been too close to 600%. Alesi, meanwhile, continued to try and better his previous best. He couldn't. Panis though decided he hadn't had enough fun for the day and took a cross country trip of his own. His car stopped rather close to the track, but there was now evidence of picnic hampers or thermos'.
Barichello was out again, and determined to do the business. He was close on the first split, then it all went wrong. His car had a moment, but he held it together and just kept it on the track. Villeneuve was also out and trying hard. Again, too hard. His car didn't escape so lightly losing his front wing. Rubens was determined and went out again, but was held up by a Minardi and another car leaving the pit lane.
Berger tried to better his time, but fails to do so. With 2.5 minutes left Schumacher goes out. Close on the first split, he loses a second on the 2nd split. At the line he had moved up to 4th with a 1m19.474s, displacing Alesi and Brundle.
-- Stephen M Baines
"[The Autosport sticker] started to peel off in the middle of Eau Rouge and it distracted me. In fact it was the first thing to hit the barrier" Tiff Needell - Jaguar XJR-15 Challenge - Interview with Autosport