Formula one, 2001 season Austrian Grand Prix at the A1-Ring: Practice and Qualifying the jpoc guide

The McLarens looked good out of the box on Friday, setting the pace in the first session despite Hakkinen turning up with a bad dose of the flu. The drivers most out of place in the first session were Michael Schumacher, back in sixth, Kimi Raikkonen up in fourth and both Arrows up in the top ten. Frentzen was plumb last but technical problems meant that he completed very few laps.

The second session saw few changes from the first. The McLarens held on to their one two though this time Coulthard had the upper hand. Michael Schumacher managed to improve by just one place and both Saubers made it into the top ten. Of the Honda runners, all but Trulli made it into the top ten and Button and Fisichella were last and last but one respectively.

By the time that the final free practice session finished on Saturday morning, things were looking better for Ferrari with Michael Schumacher fastest and the McLaren-Ferrari dominance being established at the top of the time sheets. Williams were next with Juan Pablo Montoya just ahead of Ralk Schumacher. Down the field, everything was as you might expect and nowhere were team mates split by more than one or two places. The sole exception was at Prost where Burti was four places ahead of Alesi.

When the qualifying hour finally rolled around, we had to wait a long time before anyone would show themselves outside the garages. This year, the Austrian round of the championship was held early in the season and as a result, the track surface was unusually clean, and slow when the F1 circus hit town. So, it was in everyone's interest to allow somebody else to lay down some rubber before coming out to qualify. It was almost thrity minutes into the session before things really got going and there were surprises aplenty for the drivers.

Something had changed out on the track. Perhaps the temperature, the amount of rubber that was laid down or the wind direction. The result was that almost every car that came out emerged with a lot of oversteer and there were plenty of spins and many wild opposite lock moments. After that, most cars seemed to go to far in the other direction in the setting used for their next runs. Understeer was then the order of the day as car after car ran wide.

One team to suffer more than most were McLaren. They ended up in seventh and eight on the grid and really it looked all over for them.

Whatever happened to the rest, one man showed that he had mastered the art of getting in a good lap here on Bridgestone tyres. Michael Schumacher started his first flying lap hard but then backed off in the middile section before setting himself up for his fast run on the second flying lap out of the pits. It worked. His first run produced the pole position lap. The secret seemed to be in somehow preserving the tyres for the last part of the fast lap. Other drivers were ahead of him at the second intermediate time but then they all lost half a second to the German in the final session and that was enough to keep the elder Schumacher at the head of the grid.

The two Williams looked to be the steadiest cars of all around the track in qualifying despite the fact that the drivers were really trying. Frank Williams really got a wonderful pairing in Ralf and Juan Pablo. They pushed each other to the limit which makes for great motor racing. They were the only cars that looked to be in the same class as the leading Ferrari but even they were left gasping in the final sector of the lap.

In the end Montoya just pipped his team mate undeoubtedly helped by the fact that this was a circuit on which he has raced before in his F3000 days. The final result, with the front two rows being a Ferrari-Williams locok out seemed to confirm that the order in F1 really is changing now.

Behind them, Jarno Trulli shon as the best of the Honda runners five places up on Olivier Panis who headed the other Honda users in tight formation. The intervening places were taken by the Saubers and the McLarens. While the latter's drivers described the session as a disaster, the Swiss team must have been pleased to have both drivers in the top ten.

Behind, most drivers were going to line up next or close to their teams mates. At Prost though, Burti was three places ahead of Alesi. Luciano was another rookie making good use of prior track experience and this surely boded well for his future if not for that of Jean Alesi.

It was Schumacher's first pole at the A1-Ring and he must have been happy to be so far ahead of his closest championship rival.

The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Setting the scene
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Off track developments
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th The starting grid
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Race report
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Results
GP of Austria at the A1-Ring May 13th Championship standings after the race
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