Bridgestone Motorsport has sent a message to the Formula One paddock that, contra to speculation, it means business in 2004 after securing the front row for the Australian Grand Prix with Ferrari.

After months of intense winter testing, not only did Bridgestone-shod Michael Schumacher break the Melbourne circuit track record while topping both Friday practice sessions, but he remained the fastest man on track in Saturday morning's two sessions. The German then went on to blow his rivals away in final qualifying, with another record-setting pole time of 1min 24.408secs. Hot on the multiple champion's heels was Brazilian team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who joins Schumacher on an all-Bridgestone front row.

"It's great to see the two Bridgestone-shod Ferraris on the front row," enthused Bridgestone technical manager Hisao Suganuma, "Pole position is always an advantage for the race, but it is now important that we go back and analyse all the results from this morning's practice sessions and make our final checks before the race."

"I'm very pleased!" smiled Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, "From what we've seen so far, I think we should be reasonably optimistic about the race tomorrow. The Bridgestone tyres have been very very good this weekend and very consistent. We don't know what race conditions will be like tomorrow, but we've certainly seen some encouraging signs for the race. We've got new constructions and compounds here for Melbourne and, so far, it's a real credit to all the work everyone at Bridgestone and Ferrari has done."

Sauber's Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella also had a strong showing in qualifying, and will start the first race of 2004 ready to pounce from mid-grid.

"So far, the tyre data has shown that we will be competitive on Sunday afternoon, so we are confident for tomorrow's race. I also think that the other Bridgestone cars have a good chance of a competitive race and some good results. I'm very pleased that, not only do we seem to have excellent consistency from the Bridgestone tyres, but also top speed potential which will no doubt be of benefit to all our teams tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it!"