Saturday March 3rd, 2001
New Minardi boss Paul Stoddart could scarcely believe his luck on Saturday after both his drivers qualified for the Australian Grand Prix.
"It really is incredible. I mean, how much better can this weekend get?" said the Australian.
No other team principals would have been so jubilant at having one driver -- rookie Fernando Alonso of Spain -- 19th on the grid for Sunday's race and the other given a late reprieve after failing to set a good enough qualifying time.
Brazilian Tarso Marques, who did his final lap in Alonso's car, won an appeal to be included in the field after claiming exceptional circumstances had meant his best time was just outside the standard.
Marques spun on to the gravel and had to return to the pits without his car and make a last-minute bid to qualify in Alonso's car.
Minardi, with just six weeks of preparation after Australian-born Stoddart bought the team in January, do not have a spare car.
"I think the stewards have recognised that it was a particular situation, not the norm," said Stoddart, pointing out that Marques set his fastest time in a car designed for a driver considerably shorter than him.
Stoddart said Alonso had lost 0.4 of a second with a slight mishap in the middle sector of his last run, which would have pushed him a few places higher.
"So I think not only have we come of age but it's proven (technical director) Gustav (Brunner)'s design, how good that is, and how good the car is,"
"We came here not expecting a lot and I think we're going away with more than any of us could have thought possible.
"This weekend just keeps getting better and better and better."
Minardi have taken just one point in five years. When Stoddart rescued the team, they had no engine, drivers or sponsor and were running out of time.