Japanese GP Saturday qualifying report

It was a very wet second qualifying session in Suzuka. After a dry morning session in which Nigel Mansell was fastest, beating Prost's pole position time from last year, the rain started pouring down. It was still raining when the session got...

It was a very wet second qualifying session in Suzuka. After a dry morning session in which Nigel Mansell was fastest, beating Prost's pole position time from last year, the rain started pouring down. It was still raining when the session got under way. The current forecast is for storms on Sunday, with a 70% chance of the race being run in the wet.

First out on the track was Comas, who was alone for the first 7 or 8 minutes. He was lapping in the 2:06 region. Mansell and Fittipaldi were next out. The lack of traction was very obvious when Mansell was leaving the pit lane, with the car sliding all over the place despite the slow acceleration. Comas completed 7 laps and went back to the pits.

Comparing times to yesterday's provisional pole time, Mansell was 23 seconds off Schumacher's time at the second split, and +28.79 seconds off at the end of the lap. It was reasonably obvious that the track wouldn't dry eneough for anyone to improve their times, even if it did stop raining.

Morbidelli and Hill came out at the same time, as Mansell went back in. It was now raining even more heavily. Schumacher and Hakkinen both went out on the track at this time so that we could compare the times of Hill and Schumacher, since they would be driving in the same conditions.

Hill completed his first flying lap in 2:09.173 as one of the Simteks left the pits, but stayed over to the side to let Hill past for his next lap. Schumacher completed his first flying lap in a time of 2:01.692, 6 or 7 seconds quicker then anyone else on the track at the same time.

Zanardi and Katayama came out, with 30 minutes left in the session. Schumacher put in a 1:58.911, with Hakkinen his closest rival 5 seconds slower. Hill returned to the pits, with his best time 1.5 seconds slower than Mansell's, but arguably clocked up in worse conditions.

Lehto was the first spinner of the session, putting his Sauber into the gravel. Irvine went out, but came straight back in without completing a flying lap. Mansell then went out for a second run and clocked up a 2:01.135, as Alesi came out. Frentzen was also on the track at this time, and he clocked up a 2:00.159, which put him second fastest in this session, with Herbert third.

At this point Barrichello had a massive accident after the hair-pin bend. The car went through the tire wall and into the concrete wall behind. He got out immediately, and seemed unhurt, but the bodywork on the whole right side behind the cockpit had come away from the car, and a wheel and other bits of bodywork were strewn right across the track. The session was red-flagged while this was cleared away. This was Barrichello's second crash today - he also had an accident in the morning session.

When the session was re-started, it had stopped raining, and a lot of people came out immediately. Schumacher was one of these, and he was in a big rush to get to ahead of everyone, onto a clear bit of track, and actually overtook Alboretto, who hadn't realised what a rush Schumacher was in, and was sticking to his line. Hill also came out after the initial massive rush.

Brundle then went fastest, with a 1:58.477, and on the next lap, faster again, with a 1:57.934 followed by a 1:58.1. Then Irvine went fastest, with a 1:57.760. He was taking visibly different lines to everyone else - knowing from experience which parts of the track have more grip in these conditions. On the next lap Lagorce was in teh way of what had looked to be another fast lap from Irvine, so he gave up and went back to the pits.

At this point, with the track being less like a swimming pool, but still saturated, Schumacher went fastest again, with Hill second fastest. Herbert drove with both left wheels on one of the kerbs, lost it and spun into the gravel bed, having only a gentle impact with the tyre wall. Lehto spun his Sauber again, losing it under braking coming into the hairpin.

Berger put in a time of 1:58.926 in the closing minutes, which made him about 7th fastest. Brundle went fastest again on the drying track, with a 1:56.876 as Hill and Schumacher went back into the pits, having been in the center of too much traffic. Frentzen went out for a last minute lap, and went second fastest, pushing Schumacher and Hill down to 3rd and 4th.

-- Christine. chogan@indigo.ccsem.infn.it chogan@maths.tcd.ie cjhogan@dsg.cs.tcd.ie

If it makes goo on the windscreen, we'll call it a bug. -- Larry Wall

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Nigel Mansell
Teams Sauber