Qualifying 1: Schumacher top in new car

Michael Schumacher got the competition debut of Ferrari's new F2003-GA off to a fine start when he set the quickest time in the first qualifying session for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix, although the German's main opposition came from some unexpected sources

Qualifying 1: Schumacher top in new car

Schumacher lapped in 1m17.130s, just 0.019s quicker than Renault driver Jarno Trulli. A fine lap from the Italian managed to split the red cars, with Rubens Barrichello third quickest with a best lap of 1m17.218s

Barcelona is a good barometer of the aerodynamic efficiency of a chassis and with every team except Ferrari doing most of their testing at the Spanish circuit, it is also a decent indicator of the true state of play.

Bearing that in mind, the Spanish order is interesting, with Cristiano Da Matta a surprising fourth quickest for Toyota. Team mate Olivier Panis was also right up there in sixth, the pair split by Jenson Button's BAR-Honda, who was a full 0.8s quicker than team-mate Jacques Villeneuve.

Anyone suggesting pre-season that a Jaguar would beat a McLaren for single-lap pace around Barcelona would have been certified, but that's what happened following another fine effort from Mark Webber that gave the Australian seventh fastest time. But the fine effort from the Australian piled more pressure on his team-mate Antonio Pizzonia. The Brazilian, driving to keep his F1 seat, had to be satisfied with the 13th fastest lap, 0.732s slower than Webber.

Behind Webber, the McLaren MP4-17Ds of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard could only set the eighth and ninth fastest times, fractionally quicker than home hero Fernando Alonso, who was some way adrift of team mate Trulli for the first time this year.

Williams, like McLaren, also showed a surprising lack of pace, with Ralf Schumacher only managing 11th and Juan Montoya 14th. It would be wrong to read too much into one-lap pace however, as the race at Barcelona is all about tyre degradation. Compared to Imola, for instance, the left front tyre is worked some 80 percent harder in Spain and race compounds are therefore harder. A more accurate picture will emerge tomorrow when drivers qualify in the specification in which they will start the race.

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Schumacher Fastest in First Qualifying - Spain

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