An insidious drizzle late in the final qualifying session led to some surprises in the final grid order for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix, but unfortunately, the precipitation came just a little too late to provide any real advantage for European...
An insidious drizzle late in the final qualifying session led to some surprises in the final grid order for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix, but unfortunately, the precipitation came just a little too late to provide any real advantage for European Minardi Cosworth. With only the final few competitors adversely affected by the increasingly damp conditions, the Faenza squad's drivers, Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa, took full advantage of the dry track surface available early on in the session, and pushed to the maximum. Their efforts ultimately netted them the 17th and 18th starting positions respectively for the final round of this year's Formula One World Championship battle.
During the morning practice sessions, both men concentrated primarily on achieving a good chassis balance with their cars in race configuration. Unfortunately, Verstappen's car suffered a hydraulic fluid leak, later traced to a broken pipe, after only one run of the second session. The Dutch driver therefore missed the remainder of the session, but his final qualifying performance of the 2003 season was not unduly compromised, as he had made good technical progress on Friday, and during today's opening practice session.
"That was a reasonably good qualifying lap. I put a wheel just slightly in the dirt on one of the fast corners, but otherwise, there were no problems. Hopefully, the weather will play into our hands tomorrow, as some rain would definitely help. I lost set-up time in the second practice session this morning with a hydraulic system failure on my car, but it shouldn't affect us too badly, as the car felt good on its race fuel load."
"We made some useful progress this morning. I managed a long run with a heavy fuel load to check tyre degradation and overall car balance, and I was pleased to find that the balance was good and I was able to turn really consistent lap times. We also attempted a qualifying simulation right at the end of the morning session, but one of the Renaults went off, dragging dirt onto the track, and spoiled any chance of doing a meaningful lap. I feel I did a good lap on my qualifying run, bearing in mind the fuel I had on board and my lack of experience of this circuit. I made a mistake at turn eight, when I selected too low a gear, but fortunately, it didn't cost me too much time. The car was handling well, and with the package we've got, I think it looks good for tomorrow."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, European Minardi Cosworth:
"A sprinkle of drizzle just before the start of the final qualifying session gave great encouragement to European Minardi that it might be rewarded with a rain-affected session, but it was not to be until the last few cars. As usual, both our drivers gave 100 per cent this afternoon, and as for tomorrow's race, which is critically important for the World Championship in so many ways, with three teams fighting for title honours and five others battling for the coveted fifth place in the Championship, European Minardi is expecting an interesting contest and believes a points finish is a definite possibility."
Time: 1 min 34.975 secs
Time: 1 min 37.226 secs