BARCELONA, SPAIN, April 28, 2001 -- Anyone who imagines 18th place on a Formula One grid isn't important should have been in the European Minardi F1 garage this afternoon at the conclusion of qualifying for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix....
BARCELONA, SPAIN, April 28, 2001 -- Anyone who imagines 18th place on a Formula One grid isn't important should have been in the European Minardi F1 garage this afternoon at the conclusion of qualifying for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix. Performing in front of a 'home' crowd, Fernando Alonso had just put in a virtuoso driving display, timing his final run of the afternoon to perfection and securing 18th spot on the grid as the remaining seconds of the session expired. The Spanish teenager had qualified ahead of several more highly rated teams and drivers, and the broad grins, applause and whoops of excitement said it all: emphatically, it had been the team's best qualifying performance of the season. Team mate, Tarso Marques, struggled to find a suitable chassis set-up during Saturday's two practice sessions, and the difficulties continued during qualifying, with the result that the Brazilian will start tomorrow's race from 22nd spot on the grid.
"Today's qualifying session went very well - I really did not expect to finish ahead of one Jaguar and both Benettons! What can I say? The team did a great job, particularly the mechanics on my crew when they changed an engine very quickly in this morning's first free practice session. They provided me with a car that behaved brilliantly from that moment on. As a result, we were able to test several different set-ups and get the best out of the chassis today. I feel very happy and I'm now looking forward to tomorrow."
"It has obviously been a disappointing day from a personal standpoint, although I am pleased for the team that Fernando has qualified well. My car had a chassis balance problem that meant there was too much oversteer on the entry to certain corners. We made some aerodynamic and small mechanical changes to the chassis, and on my last qualifying run, on what should have been my best lap, I lost a lot of time, and almost spun, when I came up on another competitor who was going slowly."
"Now that was good! On a bright, sunny Spanish afternoon, European Minardi F1 and Fernando Alonso showed a home crowd and the world just what enormous natural talent he possesses. His final timed lap saw him post his best-ever Formula One qualifying performance, and means he will start tomorrow's race ahead of two Benettons and a Jaguar. Tarso set his fastest time so far this weekend during qualifying, just four seconds off pole position. Considering he has never tested here in Barcelona, today's was a creditable performance."