Schumacher withstands late Hakkinen challenge to take pole. By Andrew Van de Burgt An emphatic performance in qualifying by Michael Schumacher showed that Ferrari remains very much a force to be reckoned with this year. The joint world ...
Schumacher withstands late Hakkinen challenge to take pole.
By Andrew Van de Burgt
An emphatic performance in qualifying by Michael Schumacher showed that Ferrari remains very much a force to be reckoned with this year. The joint world championship leader produced a superb lap of 1m18.226s on his first effort, and reinforced his superiority by shaving 0.02s off his time on his only other flying lap. The German's decision to abort his third qualifying run means that he ought to have an extra set of fresh tyres compared to his rivals for the race.
For most of the session Schumacher held a substantial 0.4s advantage over fellow championship leader David Coulthard, but a last-ditch effort from Mika Hakkinen moved the Finn to within one tenth of a second of his old sparring partner. Rubens Barrichello was unable to wring as much performance out of his Ferrari as his team-mate and will start behind the two McLarens in fourth.
The first qualifying session to be held since the reintroduction of traction control failed to upset the old order, although the Williams' were further from the pace than they have been in recent races. While the team has yet to get to grips with its new electronic software, the performance of the Michelin tyres compared to the Bridgestones played a more significant part in Ralf Schumacher taking fifth and Juan Pablo Montoya a disappointing 12th.
Jarno Trulli came with an ace of taking fifth place from the San Marino GP victor, but the Jordan has been looking strong in his hands all weekend. After starting his session with a trip across the gravel at Turn One, Jacques Villeneuve ended strongly to move himself up to seventh, ahead of the second Jordan of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
The sun shone brightly above the Circuit de Catalunya and with track and ambient temperatures rising, conditions were markedly different from the morning's free practice sessions. This seemed to disadvantage Sauber, and Kimi Raikkonen was unable to repeat his fourth place from the untimed session. Nevertheless ninth and 10th for the Finn and team-mate Nick Heidfeld respectively was a good performance. Heidfeld did particularly well considering that he missed three-quarters of the session with a gearbox problem that forced him to use the T-car.
Another driver using the spare was Jaguar Racing's Pedro de la Rosa. The Spaniard crashed his race chassis into the pitwall in free practice after an hydraulic failure, and with insufficient time to repair the car between sessions he was forced into the spare for qualifying. Unfortunately it was set up for team-mate Eddie Irvine, and when a rear brake problem forced him to abandon his first run he was always up against it. In the end he took a disappointing 20th place.
Irvine used a tow from former team-mate Michael Schumacher to vault up the order in the last minute rush. Eddie was generally happy with his performance, and was glad to be at the head of a tight bunch that included the Prosts and Arrows. Luciano Burti made an impressive start to his Prost career by out-qualifying Jean Alesi, while Enrique Bernoldi once again got the better of Jos Verstappen, who had a 360 degree spin through the gravel trap at Turn Four. Fernando Alonso shone in front of his home crowd, out-qualifying both Benettons on his way to a career-best 18th.
- Jaguar Racing