Ferrari team-mates Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello fought a gripping battle for pole position during the qualifying session prior to tomorrow's San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. Cheered on by the team's passionate local supporters, ...
Ferrari team-mates Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello fought a gripping battle for pole position during the qualifying session prior to tomorrow's San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.
Cheered on by the team's passionate local supporters, championship leader Schumacher finally outpaced Barrichello by just 0.064s after lapping in 1m 21. 091s on his fourth and final run. He beat last year's pole position time by almost two seconds.
The German has become the first driver this season to qualify on pole positio n twice. Barrichello is using Ferrari's F2002 chassis for the first time this weekend and he opted to use only three of his four allocated qualifying runs.
Little more than half a second covered the top four drivers and Michelin-equipped Williams-BMW drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya will start the race third and fourth.
Michelin is chasing its second straight win at Imola: it was here last year that Schumacher Jnr scored the first of the company's four wins during its F1 comeback season. "The team did a good job today," Ralf said, "and I think we are in decent shape for tomorrow."
Michelin has four cars on the first three rows of the grid, with McLaren team-mates Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard qualifying fifth and sixth. Raikkonen might have gone slightly faster but he spun on one of his runs.
Two other Michelin cars are in the top 10 - the closely-matched Renaults F1 of Jarno Trulli (eighth) and Jenson Button (ninth).
Mika Salo (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 16th) leads the remaining Michelin drivers ahead of Allan McNish (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 17th), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing, 18th), Mark Webber (KL Minardi Asiatech, 19th) and Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing, 21st).
Spaniard de la Rosa ran off the track briefly while pushing hard at the end and was thus unable to improve his time. Alex Yoong (KL Minardi Asiatech) spun on his final run and failed to lap within the mandatory 107 per cent of the pole time. He must wait for stewards to decide whether he will be given dispensation to take the start.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
That was quite a battle at the front, with little more than half a second covering the top four. It was close between the two Ferraris and the Williams-BMWs were not far off. What did you make of it?
"We expected the Ferraris to be very quick, of course, but I think the Williams-BMWs are in good shape. When there was just one of Ferrari's new F2002 chassis on track in Brazil we had one F2002 ahead of us in the race. Now there are two F2002s and we find two of them in front of us on the grid. I supposed we ought to be getting used to it, but that doesn't affect our determination to beat them."
Your partner teams didn't do any running on dry tyres yesterday. How much of a handicap has that been today?
"Not much - at least, not for us. Obviously the teams have had to work quickly to adapt cars that were set up entirely for the wet and make them effective for today's dry conditions. It reflects well on the professionalism of Williams-BMW that it was able to get so close to Ferrari, which knows this track better than most teams. McLaren and Renault proved to be encouragingly competitive, too."
How different are the tyres you are using this weekend from those we have seen before?
"Very different from what we saw in Brazil, obviously, because the circuit and the weather conditions are dissimilar. But they contain elements of tyres we have used before, albeit adapted to suit Imola."
Are you happy with the performance of both your primary (A) and option (B) compounds - and might we see both in the race?
"So far, yes, but we haven't had chance to analyse all the data to establish whether or not one is more suitable than the other for race conditions."
Do you think one pit stop or two will be the best strategy?
"Two - but some teams might opt to gamble on different tactics."
This race marks the first anniversary of the maiden win of your comeback season in 2001. Does that make today's result slightly disappointing?
"Not at all. I don't pay attention to anniversaries. We weren't on pole position last year, either, and still won. It is tomorrow's race that counts."