Portuguese GP Saturday qualifying report

It was again a dry day at Estoril, but with quite different conditions from yesterday. Humidity was higher, at 80% and temperatures were lower. First out was Hill, who was unlucky to get briefly caught behind Adams, the second man out, who was...

It was again a dry day at Estoril, but with quite different conditions from yesterday. Humidity was higher, at 80% and temperatures were lower. First out was Hill, who was unlucky to get briefly caught behind Adams, the second man out, who was on his out lap as Hill started his first flying lap. That lap was 1:21.933, with his second flying lap being a 1:21:008, so no improvement over yesterday.

Irvine then came out onto the circuit, with his race engine in place today, unlike yesterday. He moved up to 16th. Verstappen was a full second off Berger's time at the second intermediate point, and 1.392 off it at the end of the lap, which placed him ninth. Coulthard was also on the circuit, but did not improve his time.

Blundell, Herbert and Barrichello appeared on the track at this stage. Blundell was 2.363 off Berger's time, which was no improvement over yesterday, leaving him in 10th place. Barrichello recorded a time 1.495 slower than Berger on his 7th lap, which was also slower than his yesterdays time. Irvine, however, made a 1.2 second improvement over his Friday time, moving up to 11th.

Alesi, who had a massive engine blow-up this morning, spilling fuel all over the track, appeared out 15 minutes into the session. He was pushing hard locks up his right front, goes wide and loses lots of time. After that, he backed off and went back to the pits. Berger was also out at this stage, and got badly held up by DeCesaris on his first flyinf lap of this set. DeCesaris didn't get out of his way for quite a few corners and Berger gesticulated angrily when he finally did get past him.

Katayama pulled off the circuite less than 20 minutes into the session, with some mechanical problem. This ended his session, in which he had not improved his time, but still remained 6th. Hakkinen then came out for 3 laps, but was a full second off Berger's time, and failed to improve on his own. At this stage it was fairly clear that all the front runners were having trouble improving their times, with only a few of the mid-field cars doing so. Morbidelli was one of those who did improve on his previous days time, as did Bernard, who moved up to 20th, and Panis who moved up to 17th. Brabham was also out at this time but failed to improve.

As Hakkinen went in, Hill came out again. Panis recorded a time which was 2.2 off Berger's time at the second intermediate, and 2.8 off at the end of the lap -- no improvement. Hill on his first flying lap of this set got held up by a Simtek, and was .39 off Berger's time at the second intermediate, and only .158 off it at the end of the lap, which was an improvement of time but not position. His next lap found him .213 off at the first intermediate, .533 off at the second and .367 off at the end of the lap. The last stage, where Hill always goes faster then anyone else is the newly re-named Ayrton Senna curve, and the start-finish straight. Apparently most people have a problem with understeer there.

There were now 29 minutes left in the session. Alesi came out but was a massive 1.2 seconds off Berger's time at the second intermediate, and 1.478 off at the end of the lap, which was a long way off an improvement over yesterday. Fittipaldi was also on the track and improved to 11th position. Gachot's Pacific went off the track, and had to be towed away (he was in 27th) and shortly thereafter Belmondo went off from 28th thus ensuring that the Pacifics would be non qualifiers again. However, both had improved considerablly over yesterdays time, with Gachot being 6.777 seconds behind Berger and Belmondo 8.392 (as compared to yesterday's 12 seconds).

Frentzen improved to 9th, Vertappen found himself in 10th. Coulthard, on his 5th flying lap was .631 off Berger's time at the 2nd intermediate, and .838 off it at the end, which was no improvement. Next, we watched an on-board shot from Lehto's car. He was visibly struggling with it, and John Watson commented on the amount of kick-back from the wheels he was having to cope with. He didn't improve his time or his 14th position.

Herbert was out, and recorded a disappointing 1:23.810, which moved him up to 20th. The new setup obviously not as good here as in Monza. Berger was also on the track again, but was 1.336 behind his own best time at the 2nd intermediate, and 1.512 behind it at the end of the lap.

Brundle came out and was 1.2 off at the 2nd intermediate and 1.427 at the end. His next lap was worse, with his times being +.770, +1.537 and +1.776 as compared to Breger's at the first and second intermediates, and the ent of the lap. Berger himself retired back to the pits at this point, leaving himself the possibility of doing one more flying lap.

Alboretto had a trip through a gravel bed, but got back on to the circuit, leaving some gravel behind him. Hill is on the circuit, and Coulthard leaves the pits with 12 minutes of the session to go. Hill, who was the only person to break into the 1:20s in this session, recorded the following split times on his final two flying laps: +.198, +.521 and +.605 on the first and +.025, +.513 and +.514 on the second. That was the end of his session, and despite having been the fastest today, and one of the few to improve over yesterday, he was still second on the grid.

Coulthard was over 2.5 seconds off Berger's time at this point, and seemed unable to get the setup right. Thus, at 8 minutes to go in the session, the top 14 were as follows: Berger, Hill, Coulthard, Hakkinen, Alesi, Katayama, Brundle, Barrichello, Frentzen, Verstappen, Fittipaldi, Blundell, Irvine, Lehto.

Hakkinen had surprisingly only run 3 laps at this stage, and he and Berger were among the many people to pour onto the track for the closing 5 minutes of the session. Berger hit some problem and rolled slowly back around to the pits, Gounon had a quick spin and Hakkinen failed to improve his time in either of his two flying laps. On the last lap he was caught behind a Ligier and locked up, losing quite a bit of time, ending up 1.810 off Berger's time at the end of the lap.

At the end of the session, Berger still held pole position from yesterday's time, to earn his 10th pole. The final positions were as follows:

Berger, Hill, Coulthard, Hakkinen, Alesi, Katayama, Brundle, Barrichello, Frentzen, Verstappen, Fittipaldi, Blundell, Irvine, Lehto, Panis, Morbidelli, DeCesaris, Martini, Alboretto, Herbert, Bernard, Comas, Dalmas, Brabham, Adams, Gounon, Gachot and Belmondo.

Among the people who improved their time were the two Williams, the two Pacifics, the Ligiers, the Jordans, Frentzen, Fittipaldi and Morbidelli, with Herbert recording a time, having not done so yesterday.

Paul Tracy appeared in the Eurosport commentry box at one point, and said nothing new. He just said that he was testing this coming week, with Benetton, and that he had not yet made any decisions about next year, but that obviously the testing would influence his decision one way or another depending on how it went.

-- 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 Paul Tracy , Ayrton Senna
Teams Williams , Benetton , Jordan