MELBOURNE: Formula One's rookie drivers failed to set the world on fire at yesterday's official qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, filling four of the last five places on the grid for the season-opening race.
Britain's Justin Wilson finished in 20th position after he aborted his single qualifying lap under team orders while the other newcomers, Antonio Pizzonia (18th), Ralph Firman (17th) and Cristiano da Matta (16th) were only marginally quicker.
While previous rookies have done better in recent years, it is hard to judge the performances of the latest crop because of the new regulations forcing teams to qualify with the same set-ups and fuel loads they will use in the race.
With the four newcomers all in cars that would probably have finished in the back of the field, it is likely all carried heavy fuel loads to reduce the number of stops they will have to make in the race.
Wilson, a former F3000 champion from Yorkshire, was the first driver on to the track during the hour-long session after recording the slowest time in Friday's preliminary qualifying.
But he but did not record a time, pulling into the pit lane as part of an elaborate Minardi plan to expose a loophole in the new qualifying rules.
Although the two Minardis will start at the back of the grid, the decision not to register an official qualifying time will allow the team's mechanics to continue working on the cars through the night while their rivals' vehicles are impounded.
It was a strategy we chose to follow, 24-year-old Wilson said.
We knew the likelihood was that we would qualify toward the back of the grid anyway. Reuters
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