Weather couldn't help Minardi up the grid
10 October 2004 –
After yesterday's near-miss of the Suzuka area by Typhoon No 22, the approach of which led to the cancellation of all Saturday on-track activities, it was back to business for Formula One teams today with the postponed pre-qualifying and qualifying sessions, plus the Japanese Grand Prix, all taking place on Sunday. Minardi Cosworth drivers, Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner did not get on particularly well, however, Bruni qualifying in 18th position and Baumgartner failing to set a time after spinning at Turn 9 during his pre-qualifying run. As the car was returned to the team's garage only minutes before the final qualifying session was scheduled to begin, the team elected to miss the run. Baumgartner will now start this afternoon's Japanese Grand Prix from the pit lane in his race car.
Bruni said on his qualifying lap of this morning: "It has been a difficult morning, as we were out first for our qualifying run. With the track still wet but drying quickly, it was a difficult choice on tyres, but in the end, we went with shallow wets. Unfortunately, the drivers whose runs came next were able to use slicks, which gave them a big advantage. Anyway, now we will just have to see what happens in the race."
Baumgartner commented on his qualifying performance: "It's a shame that I had a problem in the pre-qualifying run because my first sector time was not too bad. The track conditions were tricky, as the surface was drying, but still quite wet in places. The car had some oversteer in it and when the back end slid in that corner, I was just a little too late catching it. We've been a bit unlucky this weekend. This is a very challenging circuit, I have not run here before, and the track conditions have been particularly tricky. I just hope we can have a good race this afternoon."
Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart said on qualifying: "Sadly, neither of our drivers was able to take advantage of this morning's changeable weather conditions. Unlike qualifying for last year's French Grand Prix at Magny Cours, when rapidly changing track conditions played to our advantage, today the weather and timing just weren't with us. When Gimmi went out for his qualifying run, the surface was still sufficiently wet that the only choice was to fit Bridgestone shallow wet tyres, but with the circuit drying quickly, the drivers who followed were able to qualify on slicks."