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Race No. 4: Qualifying Report Round 7

Date: 30 May 2004
Track: Pau/FRA (2,760 km)
64th Grand Prix Automobile de Pau, France - 29th/31st June 2004
© Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite

Second Qualifying - Race 1:
: Grey, cool.
This time the Group B drivers were first out to qualify, this qualifying session counting for this afternoon's race. With the weather much cooler than on Saturday it looked likely that this would be much the faster session too. Robert Kubica (ASL-Mücke Motorsport/ADAC Berlin-Brandenburg) was the first to take to the track, and he was rapidly joined by most of the others. With rain threatening it was not worth waiting until the track was cleaned by your fellow competitors. If you tried that there was a real risk of ending up looking very stupid. Even so, Nico Rosberg (Opel Team Rosberg) wasn't that keen to go out - but then, his father was never much of a morning person either. Even so, he went out before the first five minutes was up.
The early pace-setters were Kubica and Katsuyuki Hiranaka (Prema Powerteam), both of them opening their accounts with times in the 1.14 bracket. Clearly this session was going to be much faster before it was over though. Next to shine was Loïc Duval (Opel Team Signature) with a 1.13 to take provisional pole. And then everyone was out and trying very hard. Hiranaka grabbed pole with a 1.13:171, and was joined at the top of the table by Franck Perera (Prema Powerteam). Yesterday's fastest man, Alexandre Premat (ASM Formule 3), was only 5th at this point, but was sure to go faster. Lewis Hamiltion (Manor Motorsport) was suddenly in the 1.12s and on provisional pole, but he was quickly displaced by both Hiranaka and Premat. And then Perera went even faster, as did Duval. However, they were still not in the 1.11s. That went to Perera a lap later, and Hamilton joined him, but was bounced by Duval yet again, and by Premat who found a 1.11:503 from somewhere.
Rosberg seemed to wake up finally to set a respectable - though not especially fast - time to go 5th, while Daniel la Rosa (HBR Motorsport) was having a terrible time. He wasn't well, he wasn't fast, and to cap it all, he kept spinning. By the time the race came round, he had withdrawn, citing illness.
Meanwhile, at the halfway point, the order was Premat, from Duval, Perera, Hamilton and Rosberg. Giedo van der Garde (Opel Team Signature-Plus) was 6th, from Hiranaka, Tom Kimber-Smith (Kolles), Maximilian Götz, Robert Kath (Opel Team KMS), Marco Bonanomi (Team Ghinzani), Kubica and la Rosa.
Van der Garde was doing well and shot up the order to 4th, while Perera made a grab at pole, with a time in the 1.11.4 bracket. Hamilton was now back to 4th, with Rosberg just behind him, but the Finn (or German - he can't seem to decide) was demoted when Kubica leapt back up the order to go 5th. Premat was not going to settle for less than pole if he could help it though, and promptly responded with an 1.11.289. Rosberg, meanwhile, was trying to do something about his morning problems, and was now 3rd, ahead of Kubica. They'd both bargained without Duval, though, the rookie showing a remarkable turn of speed coupled with superb car control to claim 3rd.
Premat wasn't finished yet either, and set a remarkable 1.11.132. It seemed that a lap in the 1.10s might just be possible, but then there was an outbreak of waved yellows and that effectively stopped the improvements. There was a suggestion that Götz was to blame but no one seemed too sure. Once that was cleared away, Rosberg was able to improve to 3rd, but that man Duval again spoiled his fun, by going 2nd fastest. And then Kubica put in a late session effort to go 2nd, and towards the back Bonanomi was no longer last, having leapt up a whole place, leaving Kath in last place. However that soon changed when Kath improved by two places. In the closing minutes Hiranaka moved up to 7th and that was it for Group B.
Once again Premat was fastest from Kubica, Duval, Perera and Rosberg. Hamilton was 6th ahead of Hiranaka, van der Garde, Kimber-Smith, la Rosa, Kath, Götz and Bonanomi.
And then it was the turn of Group A. Philipp Baron (Team Ghinzani) was the first out this time, and although this session was not that fast to begin with, all that would soon change. Jamie Green (ASM Formule 3) was only in the 1.17s to begin with, though he was fastest at that point, and his teammate Eric Salignon (ASM Formule 3) was just behind him. Strangely, Baron was the first driver to get into the 1.15s, along with Adrian Sutil (Kolles). And then Alexandros Margaritis (Opel Team KMS) went 2nd, while Green was hanging on to pole. However, Roberto Streit (Prema Powerteam) was keen to prove himself, and grabbed the position from Green with a 1.14. Margaritis then broke through the 1.13 barrier and was temporarily fastest. Clearly there was still a lot more to come.
For one thing we hadn't yet heard from Nicholas Lapierre (Opel Team Signature-Plus), and he was obviously going to be fast. His first flying lap took him to 2nd, and Green was slipping down the order, to 5th and then 6th. And then it got very odd, with Zuber going to pole, but it was only a 1.13:031. This was a very long way from being over. Certainly it was if Lapierre had anything to do with it, as he promptly set a pole time, while Green staged something of a recovery to go 2nd. Bruno Spengler (ASL-Mücke Motorsport/ADAC Berlin-Brandenburg) was late out to play again, which may have been unwise, but he was able to haul himself up the order to 8th quite quickly.
Salignon, Lapierre and Green were now clearly the main contenders for pole position, and were fighting it out to the exclusion of everyone else. Streit was giving it all he could, but the rookie couldn't quite match the pace of the more experienced trio, who were all down in the 1.12s now, with Lapierre ahead from Salignon and Green. They shuffled round when Lapierre found a 1.11:707 from somewhere and Green edged out Salignon for 2nd, but Salignon responded immediately and retook the place. Spengler, meanwhile, was now 5th, with Streit just ahead of him. But then Green grabbed pole with a very rapid lap (1.11:251), and Streit elbowed his way into the top three.
At the halfway mark the order was Green, Lapierre, Streit, Salignon, Spengler, Margaritis, Zuber, Zwolsman, Sutil, Franchi, Baron and Neuhauser. However, Lapierre was still a way off his Saturday time, and he wasn't the only one who looked as if there was yet more to come.
Lapierre improved again, while Salignon moved back to 2nd, and Streit slotted into 3rd. Elsewhere, Margaritis and Zuber were fighting it out for the middle ground, the two of them swapping places constantly. Lapierre, meanwhile, was fighting back and was now 2nd again. Green, meanwhile, set an even faster pole time, but had no answer when Salignon pushed it to the limits to break the 1.10 barrier, with a 1.10:990. It proved that a 1.10 was possible, just very, very scary, and in fact Salignon believed his next lap would have been faster still had he not made a mistake; the first sector times suggested a 1.10:7 might have been possible. No one else looked likely to get near it however, and so the order was Salignon, Green, Lapierre, Streit and Spengler.
Streit put himself out of contention when he whacked the barriers and had to limp home, damaged. Meanwhile Margaritis and Zwolsman were swapping places, though it would all prove academic afterwards when the Greek was disqualified after his team worked on the car during Parc Fermé conditions.
Lapierre still wasn't done, and with the clock ticking down towards the end of the session he set his fastest time on his very last lap, ending the session 3rd, 0.001 seconds shy of Green's 2nd place time. Zwolsman also put in a last lap effort to go back ahead of Margaritis. And so they finished the day with Salignon on a remarkable pole position, from Green, Lapierre, Streit and Spengler. Zwolsman was on the 6th row, ahead of Margaritis, Zuber, Sutil and Franchi. The last two rows would be occupied by Baron and Neuhauser, neither of them looking at all comfortable on the narrow streets of Pau.



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