At the conclusion of a day when most eyes in the Formula One paddock were turned skywards in an effort to work out what weather was next going to blow over the Suzuka circuit, Minardi F1 Team drivers Christijan Albers and Robert Doornbos were ...
At the conclusion of a day when most eyes in the Formula One paddock were turned skywards in an effort to work out what weather was next going to blow over the Suzuka circuit, Minardi F1 Team drivers Christijan Albers and Robert Doornbos were pleased to have secured solid grid positions for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix.
Despite rain falling heavily throughout the morning, both men posted impressive times in the final two official practice sessions of the weekend. Weather conditions improved somewhat before qualifying, making tyre choice difficult, but with the track surface still very wet in places, it was decided to send Doornbos out on Bridgestone's extreme-wet rather than shallow-wet rubber.
By the time Albers was ready to make his qualifying run, a scant 10 minutes later, track conditions had improved noticeably. A last-minute decision was therefore taken to switch his car to shallow wets, and this was reflected in the lap time.
There was to be a "sting in the tail" of this qualifying session, however, as a further downpour curtailed any opportunity the final four competitors had of setting a competitive time, and left the Minardi drivers well-placed for what is shaping up to be a very exciting race.
"We had a really good car set-up for the wet, and our times were very competitive this morning. In qualifying, however, the track conditions had changed considerably, and on intermediate tyres, I just wasn't able to set the sort of time we were looking for."
"Even though I wasn't particularly happy with our qualifying performance, the weather conditions caused other drivers problems as well, and as a result, we have a decent grid position. We also have a sensible fuel strategy for tomorrow, and I'm therefore looking forward to a good race."
"I think we were a little unlucky with the tyre choice, as it was just on the borderline between extreme wets and intermediates at the start of qualifying. What do you do?"
"In the end, we elected to go with the wets, which probably weren't ideal for the conditions, but with the rain falling heavily again at the end of the session, and several drivers therefore not able to better my time, we will start the race in a reasonable position."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, Minardi Cosworth:
"Despite very promising first and second sessions this morning, which saw both Minardi drivers firmly in the top 10, sadly, qualifying turned out to be a complete lottery courtesy of the changing track conditions."
"The mixed grid that resulted should make for an exciitng race. I'm confident we have the correct fuel strategy, however, and it will be interesting to see what Suzuka has in store for us tomorrow in terms of weather."
Best lap: 1 min 50.843 secs
Best lap: 1 min 52.894 secs