Grand Prix Automobile de Pau, France - 29th/31st June 2004
© Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Qualifying - Race 1:
Weather: 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
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time the race came round, he had withdrawn, citing illness.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