Cool weather and autumnal showers dominated the first day of preparations for this Sunday's United States Grand Prix. European Minardi Cosworth soon got into its normal race weekend rhythm, drivers Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa -- enjoying his...
Cool weather and autumnal showers dominated the first day of preparations for this Sunday's United States Grand Prix. European Minardi Cosworth soon got into its normal race weekend rhythm, drivers Jos Verstappen and Nicolas Kiesa -- enjoying his first visit to Indianapolis -- launching into a full Friday technical programme, assisted by the team's test driver, Gianmaria Bruni.
Initially reporting the 4.195-km circuit to be decidedly short of grip, the drivers worked steadily on chassis set-up and tyre assessment, and despite rain falling during the one-hour practice session, pronounced themselves pleased with the progress made by the end of the morning.
The first qualifying runs of the weekend saw Verstappen and Kiesa grappling with a slippery, rain-soaked track. Unfortunately, the Dutch driver was unable to set a time, as he had to abort his qualifying run when an electronics problem on the warm-up lap meant his car's engine would not run properly.
Kiesa, in his first experience of driving in such tricky conditions, did a creditable job, setting a time of 1 min 21.973 secs. With more unsettled weather predicted for the Indianapolis area tomorrow, final qualifying for the penultimate round of the 2003 Formula One World Championship may well turn out to be a lottery.
"It was difficult to decide on the best strategy for qualifying. It was the first time I had driven an F1 car in full wet conditions and I didn't know what to expect. I wanted to set the best possible time, but I didn't want to push so hard as to risk going off, as I needed the experience of the full lap. In addition, with Jos not able to complete his qualifying run, I didn't have any sort of benchmark to work with. In the end, I didn't push hard enough, but I also know where significant improvements can be made. I also know the oval section of the track can be taken flat, even in the wet."
"By the end of this morning, we had a really good car for the dry conditions and I felt we had a realistic chance of challenging one or two of our nearest rivals in qualifying. Still, we've now got a good wet set-up as well, which we may be able to improve further tomorrow."
"Initially the car didn't feel particularly good this morning, and as a result, we changed a lot, which lost us time. A spring change improved the situation, but on what should have been my fastest run in the two-hour test session, the car stopped with a fuel pick-up problem. We changed the brakes for the one-hour practice session, as they had been locking quite badly, and I was reasonably happy with the balance of the car in the wet conditions. Unfortunately, the engine wouldn't pick up in qualifying, and I failed to set a time, which is pretty disappointing. We'll just hope for a better day tomorrow."
"Primarily, we carried out tyre comparison work this morning, doing one long run as part of the programme to check degradation. We didn't get the chance, however, to do a low fuel run on the tyres. I'm very pleased with today's outcome and I feel I did a good job for the team. The PS03 chassis had a good balance throughout the session, and I'm happy with the lap time I achieved, especially since it was my first time at Indianapolis. I'm now looking forward to the future, and perhaps being able to race for Minardi."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal, European Minardi Cosworth:
""Despite today's changeable conditions, it was a useful day for the team, and in particular for Nicolas, as it was the first time he had ever experienced the awesome power of a Formula One car in the wet. Sadly, Jos's car suffered an electronics problem on the out lap, which prevented him from completing his qualifying run. Nicolas, however, recorded a very creditable time when one considers he had never driven a single lap on extreme weather tyres in his life. We gained some useful data today, and look forward to the rest of the weekend."
Time: 1 min 21.973 secs
Best lap 1 min 13.129 secs (test session)