The opening day of the Italian Grand Prix weekend turned out to be less than satisfactory for the European Minardi Cosworth team, as difficulties with brakes, a broken floor, electronic glitches and a gearbox malfunction combined to prevent the team from fulfilling its early promise.

Formula One new boy Nicolas Kiesa was restricted to just 14 laps of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza prior to Friday qualifying. Team-mate Jos Verstappen, meanwhile, enjoyed better luck in the morning session, with only a broken front wing briefly interrupting a full technical programme that included chassis set-up work, assessment of aerodynamic components and tyre comparison runs, but then failed to leave the garage for his qualifying run.

"We had so many difficulties this morning that I only managed eleven laps, and virtually every one of those was interrupted by a problem," Kiesa lamented, "In the following one-hour session, I only managed two laps before the gearbox developed a fault, so I went into qualifying this afternoon with just a very small number of laps under my belt, and none of them at anything like optimum performance.

"The track conditions and the weather also changed this afternoon, with the wind really picking up, so I wasn't sure what to expect on my qualifying lap - it was like going out for the first lap of the day."

The Dane qualified 18th fastest - technically slowest of all those to have completed a legal lap - with Verstappen bringing up the rear, separated from his team-mate by Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW after the German had his time disallowed for cutting the chicane.

"The morning test session went well enough, but then we were slower in the official practice session, and didn't get out at all in qualifying," Verstappen said, "We went back on our set-up [after practice], and it would have been interesting to see how we would have gone in qualifying, but, when we started the engine on my car for the qualifying run, it simply wouldn't run properly."

In fact, the most satisfied driver at Minardi today was test driver Gimmi Bruni, who spent a productive two-hour session trying a number of new components on the third car.

"It has not been one of our better days," admitted team boss Paul Stoddart, "To be honest, this morning's test session saw Jos get into the 1min 23secs bracket, which I felt was going to set us up for a good weekend, but it was not to be."

 

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