51st pole for Schumacher

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher was the man to beat at the Albert Park circuit this afternoon, the German setting the best pace ahead of his teammate Rubens Barrichello despite all the new rules and regulations to slow him down. This is Michael's 51st pole of his Formula One career and his third at the Australian track.

“Good teamwork today, as after my problems in the morning, I took Rubens's settings for the afternoon. Qualifying went well, but the new timetable makes life tougher for the team, as, after the warm-up you have just 15 minutes to get ready for the qualifying and the race. I'm not complaining as it is the same for everyone,” Michael explained. “From my point of view in the cockpit, it is the same as always with the same level of concentration required. My lap was spot on with no margin to push more. It seems to be a tradition that I go off here! Luckily, the run-off area at that corner has been improved for this year and the team was able to repair the car without any problem.”

Michael's pole securing time means he starts ahead of Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello, who started from pole position in last year's race only to fail to finish after a coming together with Michael's younger brother Ralf. Barrichello's time of 1:27.418 was 0.245secs slower than Michael, but three tenths faster than BMW- Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya.

“Today's qualifying was the first time this weekend I have had a problem. I was on a good lap when I saw the oil/debris flags after Turn 6. With the new rules, you are supposed to be alone on the track, so I was not sure what to do and I lost concentration,” Rubens explained. “Kimi's car was on the correct side of the track but there were bits of car on the road. I am not complaining, but I could have done a better time. Maybe we need to look at the rules concerning this type of situation. From a driving point of view I think this new qualifying is less exciting for the drivers because you cannot push as hard as in the past, because of the increased fuel levels which give you a lot of oversteer or understeer. But I think the new system might be more exciting for the spectators.”

This is Ferrari's fourth pole, the third in a row, at this event and the 159th in the Scuderia's history……

“Excitement, tension and joy are the words which best sum up this Saturday in Melbourne. Today we got a better insight into the effects of the new sporting regulations: the changing of components after free practice, a very hectic 15 minute warm-up and everything played out over just one lap,” added Jean Todt. “The final result is tempered by the uncertainty concerning fuel levels for each driver, which will be those on-board for the start of tomorrow's race. That aside, the F2002 again gave satisfaction with an all-red front row for the opening race of the season. Once again Bridgestone has done a great job on the tyre side, while Shell has worked hard to provide us with the very best products. Now, we must check the cars, within the limits set out by the new rules, in order to be ready for the race, where we will get a true picture of the pecking order. As usual, reliability will be a key factor.”

“I am a bit surprised at the size of the gap between us and the competition,” admitted Ross Brawn. “Of course, it could be the case that we had taken on less fuel than them. We will therefore have to wait until tomorrow to see where everyone really stands. Naturally I am delighted to have our cars on the front row. Our drivers did a really good job. The tyres performed better today, probably because the surface provided more grip. We opted for a tyre which might not have been quite so quick over a single lap, but is a safer choice for the race.”