Renault's Fernando Alonso stayed true to his flying pace in the first two races and claimed provisional pole position in Saturday qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Spaniard clocked 1:29.848, a tenth and a half ahead of Toyota's Jarno ...
Renault's Fernando Alonso stayed true to his flying pace in the first two races and claimed provisional pole position in Saturday qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Spaniard clocked 1:29.848, a tenth and a half ahead of Toyota's Jarno Trulli. The new Ferrari F2005 proved competitive and put Michael Schumacher third.
As expected, the track temperature was over 50 degrees at the start of Saturday qualifying, with the air approximately 10 degrees lower. Pedro de la Rosa, standing in for Juan Pablo Montoya at McLaren, was the first man out and clocked a reasonable 1:30.725 to start the proceedings.
Takuma Sato, who missed the Malaysian GP due to illness, was next and the BAR was four tenths down by the middle sector but picked up a tenth to finish three down. Patrick Friesacher was the first Minardi and posted over four seconds off the pace.
BAR's Jenson Button followed on and was two tenths down on de la Rosa. Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber ran wide in the final sector and was a second and a half off. Mark Webber, who was fastest in the final practice, led out for Williams and took provisional pole with a 1:30.592.
Giancarlo Fisichella was not particularly happy to run so early but the Renault was quick: 1:30.445 for over a tenth up on Webber. Rubens Barrichello has struggled with gearbox gremlins all weekend and his Ferrari was nearly 1.4 down on Fisichella for sixth.
The Minardi of Christijan Albers was a very good eight tenths up on teammate Friesacher, although still way off pole pace, and Jordan's Tiago Monteiro went ahead of the Minardis. The second yellow car of Narain Karthikeyan was one better than Monteiro for eighth.
Felipe Massa's Sauber was marginally fastest in the first sector then lost out slightly but still managed fourth, half a second off pole. Kimi Raikkonen was the second McLaren runner and edged ahead of teammate de la Rosa for third.
The Red Bull of Christian Klien was handily on the pace and split the McLarens for fourth. Michael Schumacher went out and the Ferrari took provisional pole with a 1:30.237 -- a good lap but only two tenths quicker than Fisichella, so there was room for improvement.
David Coulthard's Red Bull clocked tenth, some way behind Klien, and Ralf Schumacher was first out for Toyota. He went very wide early in the lap which resulted in eighth, a rather disappointing effort. Williams' Nick Heidfeld bettered teammate Webber to take second.
Trulli was the penultimate runner and the Toyota was up in the middle sector then carried it through to take provisional pole with a 1:29.993, two and a half tenths up on Michael. Trulli certainly looks to be holding his competitiveness.
Alonso was last to go and he floored it. Even despite a slight mistake in the final corner the Spaniard took provisional pole by a tenth and a half, 1:29.848. So, a carbon copy of first qualifying in Malaysia, with Alonso and Trulli holding positions one and two.
"The R25 was handling very well on my timed lap, and the Michelin tyres had a very strong level of performance," said Alonso. "I lost some time in the final corner, but I still had some margin: I will need to push the car even more tomorrow morning in order to maintain the gap."
Trulli was delighted with second. "Another excellent result, not only for myself, but for the whole team who have again performed magnificently," he enthused. "We have showed that if we perform consistently over the weekend, then we can be right up there when it counts. We have to keep up this pace tomorrow."
Michael's third is reasonable but although the F2005 seems better than the previous car, it's not blowing the competition away. Barrichello can't really be compared with his gearbox woes -- and that's not exactly a good start for the new car.
Michael was pleased to be near the front again. "So far this season we have been off the pace in qualifying and a bit better in the race," said the German. "Now we are reasonable in qualifying and our race pace seems good too. Over the course of all the practice sessions here we have made steady progress with the car-tyre package."
Williams suddenly woke up in this qualifying session, with Heidfeld fourth and Webber sixth, and McLaren was not far away with both cars in the top ten. Massa's laps was neat and tidy; his 10th place was a good effort and ahead of both BAR's, although Villeneuve was way behind in 16th.
Klien was also notable in eighth, but similarly his teammate Coulthard was several places further down. Unsurprisingly Renault and Toyota are looking very good, despite Ralf's wayward lap, but Michael and the Williams pair are not letting them get too far ahead.
So far this season we have not seen the top three from first qualifying change in the Sunday session. Alonso will be hoping for that to continue but Trulli and Michael will no doubt have other ideas. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Trulli, M. Schumacher, Heidfeld, Fisichella, Webber, Raikkonen, Klien.