Williams vs Ferrari By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com Tarso Marques in the Minardi went out to test the waters. It was not a good start at all, because he was stationary, engine running with a whiff of smoke coming from the back end of his...
Williams vs Ferrari
By Erica Southey - Motorsport.com
Tarso Marques in the Minardi went out to test the waters. It was not a good start at all, because he was stationary, engine running with a whiff of smoke coming from the back end of his car at the Veedol chicane. The car rolled backwards and he managed to find a gear, get it started and opted to do his first flying lap right away instead of coming in to see what caused the temporary relapse. At one stage it looked that he wasn't going to make the 107% threshold, but he had better laps to put him ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso in the sister Minardi.
BAR was hoping to have their cars in sixth and tenth position, but had to settle with Jacques Villeneuve in 11th position and Olivier Panis in 13th. This time round Villeneuve had the upperhand on his teammate. Villeneuve was fighting the car in the earlier stages of qualifying which was evident when he went a bit wide over the curb and touched the grass. Panis had a good session, giving it all he had to try and qualify in the top ten. It was Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Herald Frentzen in the Jordans who put an end to their aspirations of making it to the top ten by qualifying in seventh and eighth respectively. On the issue of Honda discontinuing their engine supply to both the BAR and Jordan team, Craig Pollock said that they signed a longstanding contract with Honda and that it was all a rumour that was laid to rest. Another team who is slowly edging their way into the top runners is Sauber, who qualified well with both Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen in the top ten.
Jos Verstappen rounded off his session with a spin out of the Veedol chicane, while Coulthard went wide into the gravel, back onto the track lingering for a while before getting the car going again at the last corner in the closing stages of the session.
It wasn't McLaren's day. From Free Practice it appeared that they had it all together, but when it mattered the most, David Coulthard and Mika Häkkinen could only muster fifth and sixth bowing their knee to the dominant Ferrari and Williams. Coulthard was the first of the top runners to come out rather early in the session to put in a good lap in the low 1 min 16s which looked hard to beat, while Häkkinen tried his best throughout the session to challenge whoever was on pole.
Pole belonged to the Schumacher brothers with Michael dominating it for most of the session. Ralf came out and toppled the lap time of Coulthard into the 1 min 15s. Michael couldn't respond and it looked like no one was going to unsettle Ralf on pole. How wrong could this assumption be? Michael made a few changes to the car to get more downforce compromising straight-line speed, while flying through corners to crash the 1 min 15s to the mid 1 min 14s. Try as they might, Ralf and Juan Pablo Montoya in the BMW Williams couldn't better the time of Michael, though coming near it. Rubens Barrichello could only manage fourth which isn't what Ferrari was hoping for. During the session mechanics were seen setting the T-car up for Barrichello. Could that mean that all was not well at Ferrari? Earlier the day, Michael had hydraulic problems, which left him without a racecar till five minutes before the opening stages of the qualifying session.
With Qualifying well behind them, there is still the race to come. Will McLaren pull something out of the bag or will the younger Schumacher repeat his brilliant drive as in Canada? In less than 24 hours, we will know when the European GP draws to an end.