MAGNY-COURS (France): Jos Verstappen struck a blow for the nobodies of multi-million dollar sport here yesterday when he took his unfashionable Minardi to provisional pole position for tomorrow's French Grand Prix.
Starting second from last, the veteran Dutchman clocked 1:20.817 in the first qualifying session to find himself in unfamiliar territory.
The only setback for the little Anglo-Italian team was seeing Englishman Justin Wilson, who had joined his teammate on the front row, have his time of 1:20.968 deleted after his car was found to be 2.5kg underweight.
Equally unheralded Ralph Firman was then promoted to second fastest in his Jordan on a day when the giants of the paddock came off worst by having to run early in the session when the track was soaking wet.
“The track dried out and we pushed for the result,” said Verstappen, taking part in his 101st grand prix. “We always have to push in all sectors and go for it because we all know that we are not as quick as the others.
“Normally, on a Saturday we wouldn't have a chance but a lot depends on the weather.
“The other teams have more horsepower and more downforce so we can't compete with them,” said the Dutchman who was still quick to add a note of caution ahead of today's second session where normal service is expected to be resumed.
“This is the sort of result we would like every weekend but we know the situation with the team. Hopefully, there will be more days like this.”
Michael Schumacher, fined US$10,000 for a pit lane collision with the Jaguar of Mark Webber in morning practice, took out his frustrations straight away before being relegated to 12th place by the end of the season, over seven seconds off the pace.
First out on the track, but with his car battling surface water and spray, he clocked 1:27.929 which title rivals Kimi Raikkonen, in a McLaren, and Ralf Schumacher in a Williams, could not match.
Juan Pablo Montoya briefly threatened in a Williams, going quicker in the first sector before losing out and clocking 1:28.988, still 1.059secs down on the five-time world champion.
Then Rubens Barrichello, in the second Ferrari, knocked Schumacher off the top, 0.834secs faster in a time of 1:27.095.
Scotland's David Coulthard, in the second McLaren, was 0.549secs faster than Barrichello in the first sector before the deceptive conditions found him out and he had to settle for third at the time behind the Ferrari duo with 1:28.937.
Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella then deposed Coulthard from third place with a time of 1:28.502.
Jenson Button, prevented from taking part in morning practice while his BAR team fought a winning court battle to have their cars freed from being impounded, crawled home at the back of the field in 1:30.731.
As the track dried out from the morning rain, driving conditions improved and Webber took full advantage dipping 2.098sec below Barrichello by the end of the second sector before finishing in 1:25.178, almost two seconds faster than the Brazilian.
Then it was the turn of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, in a Sauber, to take second spot in 1:26.151 to bring back memories of the storming performance he put in as a Jordan driver when he won here in a rain-affected 1999 race.
Jacques Villeneuve, the second BAR driver, then gave his team a much-needed boost when he then went fastest with 1:24.651.
Nick Heidfeld, in the second Sauber, then supplanted Villeneuve but as the sun made its first extensive appearance of the day, the track got drier, and it was left to Firman to fly into top spot in 1:23.496 before the two Minardis pulled off their dramatic coup. – AFP
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