Ferrari ruin Home
lose Williams their first pole of the season..
For the second year running,
Local Home boy Jacques Villeneuves pole
position was snatched from him in the final minute of
qualifying. This time it was Michael Schumacher,
taking his first pole for Ferrari since
Hungary in 1996, who saw to it that the crowd of over
a hundred thousand would not see their hero at the
front of the grid.
The teams, reluctant
to set an early pace, waited for over ten minutes
into a rather dull session before sending the first
car out amid the good-natured shouting of the crowd.
The Mexican waves seemed to follow Rubens
Barrichello round the circuit as he obligingly
cleared away a lot of the dirt and dust to set the
benchmark of 1.20.4s for others to follow.
victim yet again of that engine and a
woefully ill-prepared team, set an early and
unspectacular time of 1.20.12 in the Arrows,
running the old C spec Yamaha after the
latest spec engine let go on him the day before. No
surprises there. It was to be his best time of the
day, for he spun at turn 1 on his fourth lap and was
forced to use the spare for the remainder of the
session, suffering severe brake balance problems. "On
my first run, I spun and it was my fault."
He said "Thankfully I got my time in as it
was the only time I got for the rest of the session.
The spare car had a braking problem and we had to
come in and change that and the rest was down to
Villeneuve set the
early pace with a 1.19.4 and it was then a succession
of fastest laps for Ralf Schumacher, Giancarlo
Fisichella, Heinz Harald Frentzen and
Schumacher, fighting his car all the way round the
circuit, who all took their turn at the front.
There was a brief
period of optimism for McLaren when David
Coulthard using the Mercedes V10 evolution
engine set a blistering 1.18.4, taking pole before
his engine mysteriously died on him. The lead was
retaken by Schumacher on his second run and then
again to the riotous delight of the crowd, Villeneuve
put in what looked like the definitive lap of
With a little over
five minutes remaining Alexander Wurz sitting
in for Benettons ailing Gerhard
Berger, kissed the concrete wall a little to
amorously coming out of the final turn on to the pit
straight and lost his wheel. The session was
red-flagged to allow his stricken car to be removed
from the track and the final few minutes saw a gaggle
of cars leaving the pit lane for one last outing.
Coulthard in the
spare, ruined his chances by over driving his car
into the grass, wrecking his tyres for his final lap.
Hill, suffering from severe handling problems was,
not for the first time, holding up Rubens Barrichello
in the queue of cars all desperate to get round to
the start finish line before the chequered flag fell
on the session. Somehow he managed to get though and
set an extraordinary lap to move up five places on
the grid to third. "I am absolutely
thrilled," He grinned ""The
Ford project 6 engine has much more power and
driveability. Our car is very strong aerodynamically,
so we can afford to run with a very low wing and its
still steady under braking."
With less than ten
seconds to go, both Villeneuve and Schumacher crossed
the line to start their final charges. The Canadian
was uncharacteristically sloppy, using up all the
available track space to hold his car in check until
a severe brake lock put and end to bettering his
time, leaving Schumacher to take the honours by 3
thousandths of a second. " Sure Im
disappointed. The same thing happened last year on
the last lap." Villeneuve said afterwards. "I
got into turn 1 locking the wheels. Youre just
turning all the time and you cant adjust your
brake bias. I braked a bit early and I lost a few
tenths. I am very confident for tomorrow as our car
is very strong on high fuel loads."
Michael Schumacher of
course, had seen the chinks in the Williams
armour and not swayed by the teams apparent
sandbagging, knew he had a chance if he was careful.
"I didnt go with any expectations, but
after this morning, it showed a little bit that we
had a slight chance." He explained in his
unique Schumacherese. "Tyres will
be a bit critical but if you know how to handle them
and are aware of this, you should be able to deal
with it." A small pearl of wisdom from the
maestro and one that should be heeded, for whilst
tyres will not be as critical as in Spain, criticism
has been placed at Goodyears door for
excessive wear on some rear sets. Bridgestone
apparently are consistent throughout the range and
have been hearing nothing but praise. It is odd
therefore to see regular Bridgestone front runner Olivier
Panis so far down the grid in 10th place. Paul
Stewart Director of the highest placed
Bridgestone team Stewart Ford said, "
We feel confident in another superb performance by
Bridgestone which will make our planning far
Disappointing too for Jordan
Peugeot after posting such promising times
yesterday but refusing to be downhearted, Giancarlo
Fisichella, who qualified ten places higher in sixth,
than he did last year for Minardi, said,
"I was still improving my time on the last lap
so this is encouraging. The problems we have been
having with tyre wear have improved, but we still
have some work to do after we have looked at the
telemetry data from today."
Team mate Ralf
Schumacher broke second gear during the session and
liked his spare car so much that he decided
to race in it tomorrow.
It looks that this
will not be a walkover for Young Villeneuve. Not only
will Schumacher be filling the frame, but Coulthard,
Barrichello and maybe Fisichella too will all want a
slice of the maple pie.