With the threat of rain hanging over Imola's Circuit Enzo e Dino Ferrari as the final qualifying session for Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix approached, European Minardi Cosworth drivers Justin Wilson and Jos Verstappen were holding their breath.
With the threat of rain hanging over Imola's Circuit Enzo e Dino Ferrari as the final qualifying session for Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix approached, European Minardi Cosworth drivers Justin Wilson and Jos Verstappen were holding their breath. They would make the first two runs of the afternoon, and a sudden rain shower could have a major impact on the outcome of the session. As it turned out, a few drops of rain did fall just prior to the start of qualifying.
Wilson then found the track a little slippery, but put in a skilful performance to record what turned out to be the 18th-fastest lap. Verstappen was on course for an even quicker time, but his car spun off the track at the Variante Alta chicane and hit a barrier, thus preventing the hard-charging Dutchman from completing his run. He will now start tomorrow's race from either the final position on the grid or the pit lane, depending on whether the team elects to run his repaired race car or the spare car.
The team made good progress with vehicle performance during Saturday morning's free practice sessions, both drivers concentrating on honing the chassis balance and aerodynamic configuration of their cars in preparation for tomorrow's race.
"That was not an easy run - the track was very slippery with the spots of rain that fell just before qualifying started. A couple of times I had big slides, but managed to keep the car on the track. The lap could have been better in a couple of places, but that is always the case. Generally, I was quite happy with the way it went, and we'll now see what the race brings us tomorrow."
"Obviously, I'm not very happy with today's qualifying performance. The situation wasn't helped by the fact we had to do an engine change after the end of practice, and in this afternoon's pre-qualifying warm-up the new engine felt different. I wasn't absolutely sure how it would be in qualifying, but as it turned out, it was fine and the car was performing well up until the point when I had the accident."
"I just hit the curb too hard, picked up oversteer, slid off the track and hit the wall. I'm fine, but the car was a bit damaged and I apologise to the guys for the extra work that will be required to make the repairs. Tomorrow could be another unpredictable race, depending on the weather, so once again it is going to be important for us to finish in order to capitalise on the misfortunes of others."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, European Minardi Cosworth:
"It has been a sharp end to what started as a promising day. The team had an interesting, and busy morning, with a precautionary engine change on Jos's car between the free practice session and qualifying. A slightly slippery track saw Justin have a small 'moment' in qualifying, and sadly, Jos have a far larger one, which resulted in him not completing his lap. I feel for both drivers today, as they were giving 100 per cent, but the times just didn't quite reflect that. We look forward to a better race tomorrow."
Chassis: (No 18) PS03/04
Spare car: PS03/02
Best lap: 1 min 25.826 secs
Chassis: (No 19) PS03/01
Best lap: No time