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Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve counted himself lucky after finishing in fourth position in today's first qualifying session for the Australian Grand Prix.

The former World Champion set his flying lap right before it started to rain very heavily at the Albert Park circuit. The conditions made it impossible for any of the runners to set competitive times and Villeneuve finished in fourth, albeit nearly four seconds off the pace.

The Sauber driver was also fortunate on his warm-up lap, during which he spun in the damp track but managed to avoid hitting anything.

"The weather made things pretty difficult for us today," said Villeneuve. "When it was my turn it was a very tough decision which Michelin tyre to go for. It was a choice between intermediates and dries, so we went for the latter.

"As you saw, it was slippery on them during my out lap but I was fortunate not to hit anything when I spun. After that I wasn't too aggressive on my qualifying lap. It was pretty good, so in the end I guess it was our lucky day."

Villeneuve's teammate Felipe Massa was not as lucky and could not even complete his lap after the pouring rain began to fall when he was about to start his run on dry weather tyres.

"There's not much to say," Massa admitted. "It was a clear decision to go for dry tyres by the time my turn came about, but it began to pour with rain literally as I came past the pits on my quick lap.

"It was very slippery, and of course there was no point to finish the lap. I just hope I am luckier in the race."

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