Michael Schumacher put the F2003-GA on pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix in Saturday qualifying and it's a Ferrari front row with Rubens Barrichello second. A very confident statement from Ferrari on the debut of the new car although the ...
Michael Schumacher put the F2003-GA on pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix in Saturday qualifying and it's a Ferrari front row with Rubens Barrichello second. A very confident statement from Ferrari on the debut of the new car although the Renaults of Fernando Alonso, third, and Jarno Trulli, fourth, were not too far behind.
Justin Wilson was first man out, a tidy lap for the Minardi and he was ahead of team-mate Jos Verstappen after the Dutchman's lap. "I'm much happier today," said Wilson, who's time was 1:22.104. "The lap was fairly clean except catching the kerb and running into the dust a bit, but it was good. The main thing now is to finish the race tomorrow."
Jordan's Ralph Firman was out after the Minardis, taking the top slot by nearly two seconds from Wilson and outqualifying Giancarlo Fisichella for the first time. "It's the quickest I've been in the first two sectors," said a pleased Firman. "There was a bit of understeer but I'm quit happy."
He was followed by the Sauber of Nick Heidfeld who took over provisional pole with a 1:19.646, then team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen was quicker by two tenths. Fisichella struggled -- the engine blew in his race car in warm up, so he hopped into the spare Jordan which promptly did the same thing. It was fixed for qualifying but the Italian could only manage fourth.
Juan Pablo Montoya was the first of the big guns to go. Unhappy with the Williams all weekend, Montoya was in the spare after going off in practice and took pole by five hundredths of a second, 1:19.377.
Antonio Pizzonia was the first Jaguar and had a poor lap to take fifth: "I'm a bit disappointed," he said. "I think we were looking good this morning but with the track getting hotter and hotter, it's upset the balance of the car."
Jacques Villeneuve was third behind Frentzen on his flyer and Ralf Schumacher was the next to take pole, nearly four tenths up on Montoya with a 1:19.006.
Local hero Fernando Alonso didn't disappoint the home crowd. Putting in a scorching lap he took pole by eight tenths of a second, a 1:18.233. "It was a good lap," Alonso said, "I think the people enjoyed it! But it will be difficult to keep that position."
David Coulthard, who also suffered a blown engine prior to qualifying and was in the spare, went third on his lap but it seems likely Alonso was running a lighter fuel load than the McLarens. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen made a surprising mistake and detoured across the gravel. He aborted his lap, the time lost would have put him at the back of the grid anyway and now McLaren can work on his car over night.
"It's worth saving the fuel," said team boss Ron Dennis of Raikkonen's aborted lap. "He was four seconds down after going off. He's still young and still learning and he will make the odd mistake. But he's still leading the world championship and no matter what happens tomorrow he will still be leading the world championship."
Mark Webber was less than his previous qualifying performances to go seventh but, again, it depends on fuel strategy for pit stops tomorrow. Olivier Panis kept up Toyota's good performances so far this weekend by going second, only just slower than Alonso. Cristiano da Matta took tenth on his run. Jenson Button had a very good lap to go second, outqualifying BAR team-mate Villeneuve in fine style.
Rubens Barrichello was the first Ferrari and took pole with a 1:18.020, two tenths up on Alonso. Jarno Trulli slotted into fourth after setting a very quick final sector, a great result for Renault. Michael Schumacher was last man out and took pole position, his 52nd, by two tenths of a second from Barrichello.
A good display from Ferrari but gap between it and Renault was a lot less than many would have thought, although Renault was most likely on a lighter fuel load. The F2003-GA is undoubtedly fast but, although it's too soon to really judge, it's not quite the advance expected. However, it would be no surprise to see Schumacher and Barrichello disappear into the distance in tomorrow's race.
McLaren's Ron Dennis had the final word on the F2003-GA. Asked if he was impressed with the new Ferrari, he replied: "Not really. It's a step forward but not a very big step." Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Barichello, Alonso, Trulli, Button, Panis, R. Schumacher, Coulthard.