First qualifying: Verstappen fastest!

Track conditions that started wet but got progressively better turned first qualifying for the French Grand Prix on its head today (Friday) as Jos Verstappen led team-mate Justin Wilson for an unlikely Minardi 1-2. Wilson was subsequently disqualified, however, as his car was underweight

First qualifying: Verstappen fastest!

Last to run due to their position at the bottom of the F1 pile, Verstappen reeled off a faultless 1m20.817s lap that team-mate Wilson failed to beat by 0.151s. They both reaped the benefits of the ever-improving conditions on their Bridgestone dry weather tyres as the established frontrunners had been using either full wet or intermediate rubber.

Ralph Firman had time to run off the track at the Imola complex but still qualified second for Jordan-Ford, ahead of Nick Heidfeld who used inters on his Sauber-Petronas. Tellingly, Bridgestone locked out the top three positions, with Olivier Panis's Toyota the first of the Michelin runners in fourth, ahead of Jaguar's Antonio Pizzonia.

Jacques Villeneuve was an impressive sixth for BAR-Honda, which was all the more impressive given that it was his first lap of the weekend as the team's cars had been locked in their transporters during free practice due to a legal wrangle. His team-mate Jenson Button was slowest of all, however, a full 6secs off his pace and almost 10secs off pole.

Practice pacesetter Mark Webber was seventh for Jaguar after a big moment through Imola, while Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Sauber) and Cristiano da Matta (Toyota) were next up.

The F1 heavyweights will have to settle for earlier than normal slots in tomorrow's final qualifying session. Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher should get the best of the conditions, having qualified 10th and 11th respectively. Schumacher's time was all the more praiseworthy as he ran when the track was at its wettest.

Giancarlo Fisichella suffered a scrappy lap that included a big moment at the first corner for 12th, ahead of David Coulthard (McLaren), Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) and Jarno Trulli (Renault). Although Button will be first on track tomorrow, he will be followed by Fernando Alonso (Renault), Ralf Schumacher (Williams) and Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren) in that order, as the championship frontrunners struggled with their Michelin wets.

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Verstappen Fastest in First Qualifying - France

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