MINARDI ONE-TWO CREATES A SLICE OF F1 HISTORY Formula One's smallest team Minardi profited from favourable conditions to set the fastest two times in the French Grand Prix's rain-hit opening qualifying session. Intermittent morning rain showers...
MINARDI ONE-TWO CREATES A SLICE OF F1 HISTORY
Formula One's smallest team Minardi profited from favourable conditions to set the fastest two times in the French Grand Prix's rain-hit opening qualifying session. Intermittent morning rain showers left the circuit very wet to begin with and conditions favoured those who ran at the end of the session, when the circuit was almost dry. Minardi team-mates Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson made the most of their good fortune to set times more than 2.5 seconds faster than any rival. It is the first time two Minardis have ever headed an official F1 qualifying session.
Olivier Panis (Toyota, fifth) was fastest Michelin runner, ahead of Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar, sixth), Mark Webber (Jaguar, eighth) and Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, 10th). Webber was involved in a pit lane collision with world champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari, 12th) during this morning's free practice session. Neither car was seriously damaged in the incident.
The remaining Michelin runners ran at the start of the session, when the circuit was at its most slippery. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes, 14th) was fastest of them from Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, 15th), Jarno Trulli (Renault, 16th), Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes, 17th), Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, 18th) and Fernando Alonso (Renault, 19th).
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director
A successful start to the Formula One season caused several Michelin teams to suffer during the opening qualifying session for this weekend's French Grand Prix. Drivers took to the track in world championship order -- and most Michelin runners consequently ran at the beginning of the session, when conditions were extremely slippery. The fastest times were set in much dryer conditions at the end. Olivier Panis (Toyota) -- the only Frenchman in his home race -- upheld Michelin honour with a strong run to fifth place. Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar, sixth), Mark Webber (Jaguar, eighth) and Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, 10th) were also in the top half of the field.
Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "Today's extremely variable conditions have been very interesting, because we have had the opportunity to evaluate our dry, intermediate and full-wet tyres. The sport sometimes throws up peculiar qualifying sessions and today's was one such.
Today's mixed conditions mean tyre manufacturers have yet to begin gathering meaningful data for the rest of the weekend, which forecasters predict will be dry. Pierre Dupasquier: "We managed to complete a little bit of dry running during this morning's test session, in which Jaguar and Renault were involved. At that time track conditions weren't at all helpful, though, because the circuit was very dirty. It began raining before we had chance to accumulate any meaningful data, so we'll be starting tomorrow with a clean sheet of paper. We have plenty of work ahead."
This weekend, Michelin's range of four dry-weather tyres includes one new option. Pierre Dupasquier: "This features a fresh construction method but it is most radically different in terms of compound. We won't really know how effective it is until after the race. It is very easy to make faster tyres, but the trick is to do so without compromising durability. Everything I have seen so far leads me to believe, however, that we will supply our five partner teams with competitive tyres this weekend."