Qualifying 1: Ferrari to the fore

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher was the only driver to dip below the 1m08s barrier when he set the fastest time in today's first qualifying session for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix, round 6 of the world championship

Schumacher lapped in 1m07.908s with the Ferrari F2003-GA in the only session when we are likely to see a car's full low-fuel potential. He was 0.279s clear of team mate Rubens Barrichello, who actually lapped slightly slower than when he took pole for last year's race with Ferrari's F2002. It has to be remembered, however, that the circuit is more slippery on Friday, with less rubber down.

Mark Webber did another fabulous job to be third fastest for Jaguar, ahead of a promising display from the BAR-Hondas of Jacques Villleneuve and Jenson Button, who were fourth and fifth.

Juan Pablo Montoya had been hoping that the long straights of the A1-Ring would prove tailor-made for BMW power, but the Colombian could do no better than sixth, while team mate Ralf Schumacher failed to set a time after spinning at Turn 3.

The McLaren-Mercedes duo were seventh and eighth, with David Coulthard 0.03s quicker than championship-leading team mate Kimi Raikkonen. Antonio Pizzonia was just a tenth adrift in the second Jaguar with all the speculation about imminent replacement now apparently behind him.

Giancarlo Fisichella turned in a good effort with his Jordan-Ford to complete the top 10, with Jarno Trulli confirming Renault's suspicions that they would face a harder task here, as he put the first R23 11th. Barcelona sensation Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, was a quarter of a second and two slots further back.

It was not a good day to be called Ralf or Ralph. After Schumacher Jr's earlier indiscretion, Ralph Firman lost his Jordan on the exit of the final corner and bounced down the grass verge and then sideways into the barrier before coming to rest on the pit straight. On the positive side, he did record a time and will start behind the Williams in Saturday's all-important final session.

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