By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com Clouds were looming while the track was slowly drying from earlier rain as the cars came out to test the waters. If the same cars were expected in the top order, it was quickly dispelled by the likes of ...
By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com
Clouds were looming while the track was slowly drying from earlier rain as the cars came out to test the waters.
If the same cars were expected in the top order, it was quickly dispelled by the likes of Heinz-Herald Frentzen and Jarno Trulli who unseated the McLarens and the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello during the session. Heinz-Herald Frentzen improved on all his previous times and showed that he is far from being out of contention.
Olivier Panis in the BAR-Honda was consistent by bettering the times of team-mate Jacques Villeneuve who appeared to be fighting the car at some point in the session. There was cause for concern in the BAR-Honda pit garage, when Jacques's car was lifted up and mechanics frantically worked on something. They were working on balancing the car to make Villeneuve's car steadier, as he was losing time to team-mate Panis.
It didn't take long for Mika Häkkinen to topple the fastest lap of last year's qualifying session, which was 1.24.700 with his blistering lap of 1.23.749. Soon to follow was Michael Schumacher who bettered Häkkinen's time.
The McLaren's are back! True to his word, Häkkinen said that the McLarens will start performing from the first leg of the European season. David Coulthard added weight to this statement with his great performance and a show of confidence that he is to be taken seriously for the contention of this year's World Driver Championship (WDC). Coulthard at one stage was fighting the car, but got it well under control and stamped his authority down on the track by putting in a sensational lap taking the pole position for tomorrow's San Marino GP from Häkkinen.
Never say die, Ralf Schumacher, accomplished what he set out to do today at Imola, by passing brother Michael in position. In the closing stages of the qualifying session he bumped his brother, Michael down to fourth on the grid. Schumacher Jr, wanted to make sure he steers well clear of Rubens Barrichello, and who better than brother Michael to act as buffer? Team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya lived up to his reputation by putting in good laps and matching Schumacher Jr's pace. At one stage it looked as if Montoya's Williams still had problems from the previous day where he stopped half way through the second practice session due to mechanical failure.
Villeneuve was pushing very hard at one stage while on a very good lap, but lost the back end of his car in a corner for a split second and expertly got the car back in shape. It didn't do his lap times any good. Michael Schumacher on his penultimate run was looking very good and set to take pole from Häkkinen when the German over-committed, breaking too late into a corner and went wide losing valuable time. Was he too eager to make it eighth pole in a row or was he over confident this time round?
The Jordan's went magnificently with both drivers Frentzen and Trulli finding themselves in the top ten at all times. The surprise came from Trulli who put the car in fifth spot for tomorrow's San Marino GP in front of the BAR-Hondas running the same Honda works engines.
The Benettons's found themselves low down in the order fighting the Minardi's who are doing superbly considering their financial resources. For Jaguar it was a bad day at the office with both drivers struggling with the set-up which was evident by the way both drivers were fighting the car.
The McLarens threw down the gauntlet, Ralf Schumacher is clear of any punting situations and the Jordan's are on the heels of the top runners for tomorrow's San Marino GP. What a recipe for an exciting race of which I'm sure we are going to see surprising developments.