Austrian GP, Final qualifying: Schumacher sets pole in thriller

Michael Schumacher will start the Austrian Grand Prix from pole position after an extraordinary performance that mixed the five-times world champion's typical good fortune with a sublime skill that few others can call upon

Austrian GP, Final qualifying: Schumacher sets pole in thriller

Schumacher, last out on track for the final one-shot qualifying hour after setting the pace on Friday, and under pressure to beat Kimi Raikkonen's exceptional lap of 1m09.189s - the standard up to that point - made a mistake. But then responded to it with customary flair.

Having struggled for grip out of Turn One, Schumacher got sideways under braking for Turn Two and looked certain to have missed his opportunity. But fastest splits in the last two sectors ended any hopes the McLaren team may have had of snatching an unlikely pole away from Ferrari.

"I had a little wobble in Turn Two which cost me and I went wide," said Schumacher. "I was lucky that I caught the slide right on the apex so I didn't lose too much time! The rest of the lap was fine. Our car was balanced perfectly well, but I thought I could do better to be honest."

Raikkonen was not too disappointed to have missed out on pole, indeed this will only be the second time in the championship leader's career that he will start a grand prix from the front row. On the last occasion, the 2002 Belgian Grand Prix, he also lost out to Schumacher.

"It was a good qualifying session for us," said Raikkonen. "The front row is very good. We found the right way with the set-up this morning after some difficulties yesterday and I am quite happy with the car now."

Juan Pablo Montoya dragged his WilliamsF1 BMW up to third on the grid having set competitive times in the final free practice session and the 15-minute warm-up and felt that, had he not run wide at the first corner, he may even have been able to bump Raikkonen's McLaren down a slot.

"We have had a good balance for most of the weekend," said Montoya, "but the car has not been quick enough. We made some pretty radical changes and they seem to have worked. I think on longer runs our car looks very competitive to McLaren and Ferrari so we are looking forward to tomorrow!"

Nick Heidfeld recorded his best qualifying performance of the season for Sauber with fourth on the grid, in his T-car. The lap was clean and tidy, but perhaps the German benefited from the fact that at that period of the session, so was the asphalt. Right after his lap came Fernando Alonso, whose Renault speared off track at Turn Five. The Spaniard returned to the circuit with a defunct time and all the muck and dust from his misdemeanour.

Subsequent attempts from Olivier Panis, Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button, Mark Webber and even Rubens Barrichello would all be affected by lurid slides as the track got dirtier and more slippery. Barrichello would however salvage fifth place ahead of Jarno Trulli's Renault.

Button's BAR-Honda, quick all weekend, was good enough for fifth but he went wide at the last turn. Antonio Pizzonia firmly entrenched himself in the top ten with eighth fastest - a result he sorely needed. While Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher rounded out the top ten, the German Williams driver rather less happy with his car's balance than his team-mate.

Panis would end up just ahead of Villeneuve who will be disappointed with his lap. Untidy and twice on the grass, the Canadian should at least win an award for the best sideways moment of 2003 so far. His rear wheels arriving at the apex of Turn One at exactly the same time as his front wheels, all four in continuous drift for several metres after his car had passed the kerb!

Cristiano da Matta made some progress in 13th in the second Toyota ahead of a disappointing David Coulthard. The Scot's performance dismal enough to prompt harsh words from McLaren team-boss Ron Dennis: "Three mistakes is a bit unacceptable but we are a team. He will be tough enough on himself about this, we don't need to be any tougher."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Ralf Firman, Mark Webber and Justin Wilson rounded off those who completed laps at racing speed. Alonso was classified 19th ahead of Jos Verstappen who stripped fourth and fifth gears as his Minardi braked for Turn One.

shares
comments
Montoya Optimistic of Strong Race

Previous article

Montoya Optimistic of Strong Race

Next article

Happy Fisichella Looking to Score Points

Happy Fisichella Looking to Score Points
Load comments
How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Plus

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Plus

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break Plus

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break

OPINION: Formula 1 is about to break up for summer 2021, with the title battles finely poised. But it’s not just the latest round of Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton that will be worth watching this weekend in Hungary, as plenty of drivers are eying big results to change the stories of their seasons so far

Formula 1
Jul 28, 2021
How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Plus

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but 
flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Plus

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't Plus

How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says OLEG KARPOV, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021
The signs that point to F1's rude health Plus

The signs that point to F1's rude health

OPINION: Formula 1's calendar might still be facing disruption as the pandemic affects travel but, says MARK GALLAGHER, the business itself is fundamentally strong thanks to the epic rivalry taking place on track and the consistent arrival of new sponsors

Formula 1
Jul 24, 2021
The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat Plus

The unexpected benefit of F1’s sprint race repeat

OPINION: Formula 1's sprint race trial at Silverstone drew mixed feedback on Saturday, but there remained the true test of how it would impact Sunday's Grand Prix. While fans were busy marvelling at Fernando Alonso's progress, a key lesson was being learned that would directly contribute to the dramatic lap one clash at Copse the following day

Formula 1
Jul 22, 2021