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Narain ninth in first qualifying
March 05, 2005 15:55 IST
India's Formula One rookie Narain Karthikeyan pushed behind several veterans including seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher in the opening qualifying on Saturday for the Australian Grand Prix.
The Indian ace had an eventful F1 debut, leading the way for a while in the first session, and despite losing a part of the second last session after a spin due to wet conditions, he finished ninth in qualifying, nine places ahead of Ferrari's Schumacher, who was the slowest of the 18 cars.
The 28-year-old Indian, driving for Jordan, finished the qualifying at 1 minute 44.357 seconds. Renault driver Giancarlo Fisichella secured provisional pole position setting the fastest time of 1:33.171 at the 5.303 km Albert Park circuit where the Grand Prix kicks off on Sunday.
In fact, Karthikeyan's run helped Jordan set the fastest qualifying lap of the Bridgestone runners under the new format for 2005. Karthikeyan's teammate Tiago Monteiro finished 13th quickest.
Fisichella was 2.1 seconds faster than Toyota's Jarno Trulli. Mark Webber of Williams placed third and former world champion Jacques Villeneuve of Sauber recovered from a spin to finish fourth.
The Indian driver was one of the few beneficiaries of a dry track in qualifying, only for the heavens to open up and lash the last half of the session, rendering useless the hopes of defending champion Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.
Karthikeyan could only dream of a seven-second advantage over Schumacher, yet he will take that into tomorrow's final qualifying under the new format of aggregating results from the two sessions for the make-up of the grid.
"I am happy with what I have done. Obviously, I could have pushed a bit harder but I am learning step by step," the Indian said after the race.
"Qualifying was a bit tricky for the rookies today as it was so slippery."
Karthikeyan had a fabulous start to the day finishing fourth quickest in the Jordan car powered by Toyota with a time of 1:45.641 in the first session.
During the second session Karthikeyan's car had a small fire after the driver had only completed six laps on the track that was getting dry after the early morning torrential rainfall.
Karthikeyan quickly jumped out of the car with flames visible at the rear of the machine. The fire was extinguished subsequently by a track marshall. He took no further part in the session.
Jordan team director Trevor Carlin admitted his drivers had luck on their side in qualifying, but did not expect to go that far in tomorrow's final qualifying.
"It is a great start. It is nice to be ninth even though we would be very lucky to finish there tomorrow," he said.
Karthikeyan had a none-too-memorable outing yesterday when he was fined 6,750 US dollars by stewards for exceeding the pit lane speed limit during opening practice.
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