Dusty track costs Schumacher

World champion Michael Schumacher blamed a dirty track for failing to set the fastest time in the first qualifying session of the 2003 Formula 1 season in Melbourne

Dusty track costs Schumacher

The Ferrari driver was first out of the pits in the new single-lap qualifying format and set a time nearly eight tenths slower than team-mate Rubens Barrichello who was quickest overall.

"I felt a bit like a road-sweeping machine for all the other cars, cleaning the track, as I picked up all the dirt," said Schumacher. "It is obviously a disadvantage to be first on the road. In the end, Rubens did a very good lap and I did not.

"But tomorrow's session is the important one. It is too early for me to give an opinion on the new timetable for the weekend, but I can say I found it a bit strange doing one lap and then having to wait so long to found out what position I had."

Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn backed up his star driver: "It is difficult to draw an accurate conclusion from the session as we were first on the track especially for Michael, it was quite dusty, which affected his time. With Michael starting 17th and Rubens last, we should be able to do a good job tomorrow."

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