By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com The weather showed none of the thunderstorms predicted, but rather a sunny day in the high 30 degrees Celsius. Tarso Marques in his European Minardi was out first to take his lap around the track. The...
By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com
The weather showed none of the thunderstorms predicted, but rather a sunny day in the high 30 degrees Celsius.
Tarso Marques in his European Minardi was out first to take his lap around the track.
The surprise of the day was Ralf Schumacher in his BMW Williams challenging for pole position all the way. He caused a few anxious moments in the Ferrari garage as he reclaimed the provisional pole away from his brother and Rubens Barrichello in their Ferraris. The Williams, powered by a very strong BMW engine showed that it meant business. 1997 World Champion, Jacques Villeneuve said that these engines were huge, not meaning the size, but the power. Is Williams slowly returning to its former glory? Are we going to see a different challenger this year for Ferrari?
Ralf flew around the track at ease while his brother fought the Ferrari to get it on pole. In his determination to take top honours, Michael Schumacher temporarily lost the back of his car in turn 12 going sideways, but displayed his skill when he got the car back in line without going off. The triple World Champion said that he would love to see his brother win a race and cannot wait for that to happen. This from a man who blocked his brother in a previous season to give Rubens Barrichello, his teammate the advantage? The saying goes: blood is thicker than water, but also, where there's a will there's away. Out there, tomorrow, will be one determined Schumacher Jr.
Rubens Barrichello, picking up where he left off in the Friday practice sessions, was the first to put the lap times in the 1 minute 35s followed by Michael and Ralf Schumacher. Neither Schumacher gave any sign of relinquishing the battle. It was a case of, what you can do, I can do better.
The problems Juan Pablo Montoya had in Friday free practice were something of the past as he pushed the Williams up to 4th at one stage putting any rumours of him not making it in F1, to rest. The Colombian flew around the track in his BMW Williams matching the pace.
However, a team that was off pace was McLaren. The McLarens just couldn't seem to match the pace struggling to keep up with the top contenders. At one stage neither driver was in the top six, but Mika Hakkinen managed to put the car on the second row of the grid. One could almost see the frustrated expressions. Are the cracks in their armour beginning to show or are they leaving experimenting with tyre pressures too late and suffer as a consequence?
Jarno Trulli ploughed off sideways onto the grass trimming it with his Jordan Honda when he over committed in turn 7 and lost the car. Not taking backseat to anyone, he made himself visible by slotting into the top six. Fernando Alonso had the same idea later in the session when he also lost his car and slid off onto the grass. A subtle hint that the grass should be mowed?
It was good to see the Arrows competing, without the mechanical problems as they experienced in Friday free practice. A disappointment for Benetton who qualified lower in the order, while the Jaguars made an impression.
Disappointing for many Ralf fans was, when the Ferraris regained the first two positions on the grid, forcing him to third for tomorrow's Malaysian GP. But all is not lost, he may leave the two Ferrari drivers, a shade red at the end of the race.