Williams takes the fight to Ferrari

Williams took over from McLaren as chief Ferrari worrier in Italy today, with Ralf Schumacher missing out on pole by a mere 0.014s to his brother's best. He starts on the front row, despite crashing his race car in practice and qualifying in the T-car. Team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya qualified a solid fourth after making a small mistake

Williams takes the fight to Ferrari

Both drove committed laps, striking the kerbs with confidence and making the most of recent improvements in the FW25. It is the first front row start for the team this season, at the track where Ralf scored Williams' first victory in partnership with BMW in 2001.

"After the first sector, where I was not very fast, I thought my qualifying lap was compromised," said Ralf, "but then surprisingly I made it. I must say thanks to the T-car team as they did a very good job in getting my car ready, which I had to use after the mistake I made this morning. We have been very strong so far here and I hope the weekend continues like this."

Juan Pablo Montoya was 0.4s off his team-mate after running wide in his middle sector. "My qualifying lap was compromised by some understeer which also caused me to go slightly off track at the Acque Minerali, where I definitely lost the time I needed to achieve a better position. The second row is still a very good place to start the race from, even if tomorrow my grid position will be on the dirtier side of the track."

A good result tomorrow will mean a lot to Williams which, unlike Ferrari and McLaren, does not have a new car coming in 2003. Points gained before any new threat is realised will be very valuable by the end of the season and chief operations engineer Sam Michael couldn't wait to credit his technical team with the upturn in performance.

"It is a shame to have just missed the pole position. However, we are pleased with the positions we have achieved in the final qualifying. The car has improved a lot and credit should be given to the aero department and the factory for making this possible."

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