Fernando Alonso kept his cool in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix and claimed pole position for the race that could make him the world champion. The Renault clocked 1:11.988 round the Interlagos circuit, a tenth and half quicker than the ...
Fernando Alonso kept his cool in qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix and claimed pole position for the race that could make him the world champion. The Renault clocked 1:11.988 round the Interlagos circuit, a tenth and half quicker than the McLaren of Juan Pablo Montoya in second.
Renault will also be happy to have Giancarlo Fisichella third on the grid, while Alonso's title rival Kimi Raikkonen ended up fifth. The McLaren locked up in the first sector and it lost him over half second on a lap that could easily have been pole.
Conditions were dry but overcast, with a track temperature in the high thirties at the start of the session. Fisichella, who crashed out early at Spa, was the first to run and he started the proceedings with a 1:12.558.
BAR's Takuma Sato did not set a flying lap -- he already had a 10 place demotion penalty for causing the accident with Michael Schumacher at Spa, and had an engine change this morning, so he will start from the back.
Michael's Ferrari was the next runner and was up on Fisichella initially but dropped back to post four tenths off the Renault. Red Bull's David Coulthard, who had an engine failure at Spa, was the third man to set a time and was over a second off the pace.
Jarno Trulli, the last of the Spa retirees, also had an engine change today so his Toyota will drop ten places. He was half a second off Fisichella, in between Michael and Coulthard.
Antonio Pizzonia, still deputizing for Nick Heidfeld, led out for Williams. He and Juan Pablo Montoya tangled near the end of Spa but were actually classified as finishers. Pizzonia slotted in behind Trulli but was over a second down on provisional pole.
Montoya was next and had a slightly wild looking lap but took provisional pole with a 1:12.145, four tenths up on Fisichella. Minardi's Robert Doornbos spun out onto the tarmac runoff at turn 12, which ended his qualifying.
His teammate Christijan Albers had a bit of a twitchy lap but kept it on track to cross the line over two and a half seconds off the pace. Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan was a couple of tenths quicker than Albers' Minardi to slot into provisional seventh, behind Coulthard.
Felipe Massa, who briefly led his home race last year, was the first Sauber out and had a reasonable lap to take fifth in front of Pizzonia. Red Bull's Christian Klien put in a very good performance to slot into third, a second faster than teammate Coulthard and in front of Michael.
Tiago Monteiro also outdid his teammate, Karthikeyan, by about a second to put his Jordan seventh, then Toyota's Ralf Schumacher took the position off him. A rather strange lap from Ralf, who said this morning that the car was really good, but that didn't show it.
Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber posted eighth on his flyer and Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari took to the track to enormous cheering from the crowd. He had a lock up in the middle sector which lost him time and he clocked seventh behind compatriot Massa.
Mark Webber had a rather ragged looking lap but it was enough to go one ahead of Williams teammate Pizzonia for 11th. Jenson Button's BAR was quick in the last practice session and put in a reasonable effort to post third behind Fisichella.
Alonso surely must be feeling the pressure this weekend but you wouldn't know it. He took provisional pole with a time of 1:11.998. If anyone could outdo him it would be rival Kimi Raikkonen but the McLaren locked up at the Senna S and he only managed fifth.
So Alonso will start the Brazilian GP, the race that could see the championship decided, from pole position. Obviously it looks good for the Spaniard but we've seen what Raikkonen can do in a race and with Montoya alongside Alonso on the gird, it's a tricky situation.
"So far so good, I think," said Alonso. "But this is only the starting point, we know tomorrow is a long race with 71 laps, so I will try and finish the job. At the last few races we were not able to fight with McLaren, but here I think we have a better chance. "
Montoya was not 100% happy: "An OK lap until the last corner really. I put the throttle down and all of a sudden there was just no grip, and this probably cost me about two tenths of a second. It's frustrating, but that is what happens at this track where the conditions are changing continuously."
Fisichella will go from third, which was a good effort seeing as he was out first, while Button was not far off the pace in fourth. Raikkonen must surely be kicking himself for his mistake but fifth on the grid, while not what expected, probably won't hold him up too much.
Fisichella was pleasantly surprised. "Honestly, I didn't expect to be here," he commented after struggling for grip in the middle sector. "I am optimistic for tomorrow, because we have a good pace on the long runs, so I think Fernando and I can get a strong result for both championships."
Klien's efforts were rewarded with sixth, a very good result for the Austrian. Michael was seventh and Trulli eighth, but with the penalty Jarno will start from near the back. Those behind him will move up a place on the grid. Massa did fairly well to end up ninth.
Barrichello just sneaked into the top ten in 10th and Ralf ended up 11th. Then came Villeneuve and a rather surprising Monteiro was 13th, so he will start 12th which is a pretty amazing result for Jordan this year. Webber and Pizzonia were a disappointing in 14th and 15th.
Coulthard will be unhappy with 16th and Karthikeyan and Albers were the last who had set a time in 17th and 18th. Sato and Doornbos will start from the back, with Trulli just ahead of them.
There were one or two surprises in qualifying, both good and bad, and we can probably expect a few more in Sunday's race. I don't know about you but I can hardly stand the tension! Final top eight classification: Alonso, Montoya, Fisichella, Button, Raikkonen, Klien, M. Schumacher, Trulli.