French GP qualifying - a birthday surprise!

By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com Ralf Schumacher was the star of the day. He put in a sensational lap that was unbeatable toppling a lap by Michael that looked hard to beat. Brother Michael looked to be a threat at one stage as he challenged...

By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com

Ralf Schumacher was the star of the day. He put in a sensational lap that was unbeatable toppling a lap by Michael that looked hard to beat. Brother Michael looked to be a threat at one stage as he challenged , but couldn't hold on to the slender lead and ended up just a hundred of a second short of pole position. Mika Häkkinen thought that he secured third place, but was rudely awakened by teammate David Coulthard in the sister McLaren who bumped him off to fourth in the closing stages of the session.

Magny-Cours is an unpredictable track changing all the time. Half way through the session it was evident that there was not much left in the track by the way drivers were struggling to better their own time and that of Ralf. It was only Coulthard who managed to find a few hundreds of a second to better his position.

While Ralf was the star, it was Eddie Irvine who took on the position of star entertainer. He managed to trash his race car when he went off in the heart of Imola leaping the Jaguar off a bump going off track and losing parts of the car. Only minutes later he spun the spare car off onto the grass after losing the back end without any serious damage. Jean Alesi was the first to appear in front of his home crowd showing off the Prost when suddenly he lost the back end of the car and spun off onto the grass covered in a blanket of smoke. Luciano Burti responded to the afore-mentioned challenge of his teammate by spinning of onto the grass in spectacular fashion and managing to keep the car going before re-joining the track. One can only wonder where Heinz-Herald Frentzen's thoughts were, because he missed an apex by a good measure allowing the Jordan to go wide until it suddenly struck him where he was before getting back onto the racing line. Coulthard thought he'd make good use of the curbs and test the suspension by bumping off them, thus ruining a good flying lap. Jarno Trulli was seen without his car, which was indicative of a secret spin-off he didn't want noticed.

Juan Pablo Montoya in the Williams had a satisfying day at qualifying putting up fastest sectors and threatening various top positions by putting his car in the top three. His hard work was thwarted by the likes of Coulthard and Häkkinen. He chose the harder Michellin compound opposed to Ralf's choice of the softer compounds which may wear off quicker in the race tomorrow. Jacques Villeneuve worked hard to get the best possible out of the BAR managing ninth at one stage and out-qualifying teammate Olivier Panis who also had a satisfying run for the afternoon. Where was Rubens Barrichello who we usually see shadowing Michael? There must have been some sort of problem, because mechanics were seen circling his car looking at it closely.

The Arrows also seemed to go well for both Jos Verstappen and Pedro de la Rosa. Verstappen was on a good lap, but locked the right front wheel giving off some smoke for his efforts at breaking. Kimi Raikkonen continued his good form by taking the best out of the Sauber trying to make it to the top ten, while Heidfeld followed in his teammate's footsteps.

The roles are reversed; it is Ralf, the younger of the Schumacher brothers who will be starting in the number one spot. He has a score to settle with older brother Michael after Nürburgring. Who will make it to the first corner if at all?

In less than 24 hours we will know when the red lights go out signaling the start of the French GP.

Ralf - Viele wünsche zum Geburtstag von alle hier am Motorsport.com

-Motorsport.com

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Jordan