For the fourth year running, Atlas F1 is going to keep an eye on the battle between teammates throughout the season with a simple measurement: we compare the qualifying times of each driver against his teammate's result. After every Grand Prix, we will show how teammates have fared up against each other, and where they are overall since the beginning of the season. At the end of the season, the World Champion of Qualifying Differentials will be elected - the driver who was most beaten by his teammates, in seconds. Only those who participate in at least 15 of the 17 rounds are eligible for the coveted crown; and for those who made the efforts and participated in all 17 races, the best and worst result will be scrapped.
With one qualifying sessions completed for 2001, the differentials are on a roll! Let's see which drivers deserve bragging rights.
- Newey. In a way, one could say that the biggest loser in Albert Park this weekend was McLaren's technical director and aerodynamicist guru, Adrian Newey. For the first time since 1991, a New car was not on pole position for the first race of the season. Maybe that says something about the increased importance of tyres over aerodynamics as a result of the new regulations; maybe it says something about the Ferrari F2001's abilities. In any case, it would be an interesting sign to follow. Could it be the end of the Newey Era?
- Ferrari. And, if you were looking for further signs of just how improved the Ferrari F2001 is, here's a clue: 2001 is the first time since 1985 that a Ferrari driver set pole in the opening race of the season. Again, could be a telling sign; Ferrari have been known in recent years to start off behind and make up the gap as they go along. Could that have changed this year? And if so, in what way? Time will tell!
- Heidfeld. Kudos to Nick - he had his best qualifying ever, ending up 10th. The talented German managed throughout the weekend to erase the bad taste left - for him and for us - from his 2000 campaign with the ailing Prost. It would be interesting to see if he can further better the achievement in the upcoming qualifying sessions of 2001.
- Villeneuve. The former 1997 World Champion had a weekend to truly forget. And, while he managed to outqualify his new teammate Olivier Panis, the French-Canadian was thoroughly outpaced by the Frenchman througout the weekend. But where it couts the most (well, for this column anyway), Villeneuve barely made it ahead of Panis - with a mere 0.083s gap. Quite a difference from last year, where Villeneuve was a regular visitor to the top of the chart, leading the grid with the biggest gap over his then-teammate Ricardo Zonta...
The average gap between teammates in Australia was 0.852 - almost the same as last year's gap, which was 0.874 in Melbourne as well.