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Last Updated: Friday, 18 April, 2003, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Schumacher back on track
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at Imola

Michael Schumacher speeds round the Imola circuit during Friday's qualifying session
M Schumacher 1:20.628
R Barrichello 1:21.082
R Schumacher 1:21.193
Ferrari indicated their determination to bounce back from their disastrous start to the season by setting the fastest two times in Friday qualifying at the San Marino Grand Prix.

The world champions have failed to win a race this season despite dominating in 2002, but Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello delighted their famously enthusiastic fans on their team's home track.

Schumacher was fastest with a time of one minute 20.628 seconds, 0.454secs quicker than his team-mate.

Barrichello was 0.111secs ahead of the fastest non-Ferrari driver, the Williams of Ralf Schumacher, whose future in the team is the subject of fevered speculation at Imola.

Ralf Schumacher was 0.3secs ahead of his Williams team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, while Mark Webber continued the impressive form he had shown at the Brazilian GP for Jaguar by qualifying fifth.

We think we have a good car for the rest of the weekend and I think it is capable of winning
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher

The BARs of Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve were next up, ahead of the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard.

Ferrari's pace suggests they will be tough to beat in the race, as Friday qualifying is the best indicator of a car's absolute pace in the new-style F1 this year.

Drivers have to compete for grid positions in Saturday's session with race levels of fuel as they are not allowed to refuel before the race.

That means grid positions are skewed by the amount of fuel in the cars, which can lead to slower cars qualifying ahead of faster ones by running lighter.

Mark Webber was fifth fastest in his Jaguar
Webber was fifth for Jaguar

Ferrari are still regarded to have the fastest car in F1 and have been first and second quickest on Friday before this year, only to make mistakes in the race.

"We thought we could get this result, but the opposition - particularly the Williams - is very close," said Michael Schumacher.

"We think we have a good car for the rest of the weekend and I think it is capable of winning.

"We always knew Malaysia and Brazil would be difficult for us, as was the case last year.

"Back then, we came to Imola and had the upper hand. For the moment, it seems to be the case this year too."

I could have been quicker but I decided to take the conservative option
Juan Pablo Montoya

The Renault team, who have been one of the most impressive so far this season, are struggling at Imola because of a lack of power from their engine.

The track demands power and acceleration for the blasts between its numerous chicanes - and Renault have the least powerful engine in F1.

Fernando Alonso, who has starred this season and is third in the championship, could only qualify 13th, two places ahead of team-mate Jarno Trulli.

Jordan driver Giancarlo Fisichella, who was awarded on Thursday the trophy for winning the Brazilian Grand Prix, was 11th.

His British rookie team-mate, Ralph Firman, was 16th, with Justin Wilson 20th and last in the Minardi.

BBC Five Live's Jonathan Legard
"Schumacher was imperious"







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