Alonso heads Renault front row for Canadian GP

Alonso heads Renault front row for Canadian GP

Renault proved its pace from the morning practice session when Fernando Alonso took pole position in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix with a best time of 1:14.942. Teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was a couple of tenths behind in second to make...

Renault proved its pace from the morning practice session when Fernando Alonso took pole position in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix with a best time of 1:14.942. Teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was a couple of tenths behind in second to make it an all Renault front row. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen will line up third on the grid.

Fernando Alonso waves to the fans on his first lap out.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

The weather conditions at the start of the first 15 minute session were good, with the track temperature up in the high forties and the air in the mid-twenties. Toyota's Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli led the pack out, followed by the Williams pair of Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg. Next in formation were the MF1s of Christijan Albers and Tiago Monterio.

The Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed were next, along with the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld and the Super Aguri of Franck Montagny. Ralf clocked the first time, a cautious 1:22.019, and was quickly demoted by first Trulli and then Rosberg. Albers took second and Webber fourth then Monteiro slotted into third.

Liuzzi took the place off him and teammate Speed went to the top of the list. Raikkonen was the first McLaren out on track and went quickest, while the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were 12th and 10th respectively. Red Bull's Christian Klien clocked second and Speed went back to the top again.

Raikkonen returned to demote the American and Barrichello climbed to fourth and Button to sixth. Juan Pablo Montoya put his McLaren fastest on his first flyer, while the second Super Aguri of Takuma Sato joined his teammate near the bottom of the list. Felipe Massa's Ferrari took third and Alonso's Renault went to the top of the times.

Fisichella moved into second behind his teammate but immediately fell to Michael Schumacher's Ferrari. Heidfeld took third and the second BMW Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve just sneaked into the top 10. He was dropped outside it by Button and David Coulthard's Red Bull was very late to set a time. He managed tenth.

With time ticking away Rosberg put in a last minute flyer to grab eighth -- and subsequently knocked teammate Webber out of the top 16. The Australian was 17th and the others to be dropped were Speed, Monteiro, Albers, Sato and Montagny. Alonso remained at the top, 1:15.350, followed by Raikkonen and Michael.

The times were cleared for the second session and Liuzzi was first out on track. Villeneuve followed on, along with Rosberg, Alonso, Fisichella and Trulli. Liuzzi posted 1:16.874 to start with but was quickly outdone by Villeneuve and Rosberg in quick succession. Alonso clocked 1:14.726, the first into the 1:14 bracket this weekend.

Fisichella took second then came Rosberg, Trulli, Heidfeld and Ralf. Raikkonen took the fifth spot and Button managed ninth. Montoya moved into third but was demoted by Raikkonen and Barrichello took Button's place. Massa popped up into fifth but immediately lost the position to teammate Michael.

With five minutes to go the Hondas and Red Bulls had some work to do to get back into the top 10. The Renaults, McLarens and Ferraris looked safe enough in the top six but from Trulli in seventh the rest were on their toes. Trulli improved to take sixth off Massa and Rosberg went up to fourth.

The Hondas made a last minute effort and made the top 10 but that was the time up. Villeneuve led the list of the next six to be dropped, disappointing for BMW after the pace they showed this morning as Heidfeld went out as well. Villeneuve was less than a tenth off Barrichello in 10th and the times were all very close.

Klien was 12th, four places ahead of teammate Coulthard, and Ralf and Liuzzi were the other two out of the running. Alonso was fastest again with the 1:14.726 and Michael and Montoya made up the top three. The times were cleared and with race fuel on board the remaining 10 went out for the last 20 minute session.

During the fuel burning period the Renaults led the string of cars, followed by the McLarens and the Ferraris. Michael took over at the top and Rosberg and Barrichello were in the mix but it was too early to think about going for a hot lap. The times were in the 1:18 area and Raikkonen took over from Michael, a few tenths up.

With about nine minutes remaining the Ferraris were first to go in for a tyre change and the rest spooled in quickly afterwards. Michael was the first to go for a flyer and clocked 1:16.284. Raikkonen was next and posted 1:15.564, followed by Alonso's 1:14.942 which looked like a good candidate for the pole lap.

There was enough time left for some drivers to duck back in for another tyre change ready for a final showdown. Trulli and Rosberg took fourth and fifth respectively and Raikkonen improved his time but stayed second. Fisichella then took the place off the Finn and Michael posted fifth at the end of the session.

It was no surprise to see Alonso on pole position -- his fifth consecutive pole -- and Fisichella backing up his teammate in second. What was surprising was Trulli in fourth; Toyota didn't show much pace in the practice sessions so it was a good effort from Trulli to get himself up to the second row. Alonso, naturally, was pleased with pole.

"The competition between myself, Fisico and Raikkonen has been very close all weekend, and that was how it turned out in qualifying this afternoon," he said. "The car has felt very good from the first lap we did on Friday, and we have only had to tune it to adapt to the changing grip conditions."

Fisichella was equally happy to line up alongside the Spaniard. "I was really pleased with the performance today -- it's fantastic to have a Renault one-two in qualifying," he commented. "I made a change to the car right before my last flying lap to add a bit more front wing and after that, the balance felt really good."

Raikkonen will start alongside Trulli's Toyota in third. "The car felt fantastic this morning during practice, but we had to make some minor changes bearing the race in mind and I wasn't as comfortable during qualifying and was sliding a lot more," said the Finn. "As a result third is very good and I'm confident that we should be able to leave Montreal with a strong result."

Michael will start behind Trulli in fifth and Massa ended up 10th which was rather disappointing but is Ferrari struggling or just running a heavy fuel load? Rosberg did a good job for Williams with sixth and Montoya was a less than scintillating seventh. Button and Barrichello ended line astern in eighth and ninth.

Renault had double retirements in the last two years at Montreal so will be firing on all cylinders to get a good result on Sunday. Can anyone take the wind out of their sails? Final top ten classification: Alonso, Fisichella, Raikkonen, Trulli, M. Schumacher, Rosberg, Montoya, Button, Barrichello, Massa.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams