Renault's Fernando Alonso put in a storming qualifying lap to take pole position for the British Grand Prix, snatching the top spot from title rival Kimi Raikkonen by just three hundredths of a second with a time of 1:19.905. But the McLaren man...
Renault's Fernando Alonso put in a storming qualifying lap to take pole position for the British Grand Prix, snatching the top spot from title rival Kimi Raikkonen by just three hundredths of a second with a time of 1:19.905. But the McLaren man will drop ten places so BAR's Jenson Button will start from second and the McLaren of Juan Pablo Montoya will line up third.
Jordan's Tiago Monteiro and Raikkonen both have the grid demotion penalty due to engine changes, Monteiro on Friday and Raikkonen this morning. Like teammate Montoya, Kimi's car now has the newer spec Mercedes engine as a result of the change but it will be scant comfort to the Finn, who had been the favourite to win on Sunday.
The track temperature was 10 degrees higher than this morning at around 30 degrees and the conditions were warm but quite overcast. The retirees from France were first out on track, with Red Bull's Christian Klien leading the way. The Austrian clocked 1:22.207, about a second slower than he was in practice.
Sauber's Felipe Massa was next and was nearly three tenths down on Klien but Sauber opted to run him quite heavy for race strategy. Patrick Friesacher was the first Minardi out and dropped two seconds by the middle sector, finishing over three seconds down. His teammate Christijan Albers had better pace and finished a second quicker for provisional third.
Montoya was over a second up on Klien by the middle sector and he clocked 1:20.382, only a couple of tenths slower than he was in practice. A very good lap from the Colombian and nearly two seconds quicker than Klien. Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan went ahead of the Minardis, around a second quicker.
Nick Heidfeld led out for Williams and took second, 1.7 off Montoya. Monteiro decided not to bother with a flying lap as due to his penalty he will start at the back anyway. Mark Webber was faster than teammate Heidfeld by two tenths and took the second spot but the gap to Montoya remained rather large.
BAR's Takuma Sato made inroads on the Colombian's time and his provisional second closed the distance to just over seven tenths. Red Bull's David Coulthard split the Williams pair to slot into fourth, and he was followed by the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian was half a second off Montoya for second.
The second Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve had a great last sector and posted fourth, just under a second down on Montoya. Ralf Schumacher was the first Toyota and took Villeneuve's place, then Giancarlo Fisichella was next to run. The Renault was up on Montoya's time in sector one but faded rapidly and finished third behind Barrichello.
Toyota's Jarno Trulli was on the pace through the first sector and although he struggled a little in the middle, he did the fastest final sector. Not quite enough to top Montoya but just eight hundredths off. Button's BAR had the fastest middle and last sectors and finally shifted Montoya with a 1:20.207 for provisional pole.
Michael Schumacher's Ferrari was just a thousandth down on Button after sector one but he dropped a lot in the middle and even more at the end and posted a very disappointing eighth. Raikkonen was the penultimate runner and he really floored it.
The McLaren took four tenths out of Button just in the first sector and claimed provisional pole by two and three quarter tenths, 1:19.932. What could Alonso do? He was up even on Raikkonen through the middle and snatched pole position by three hundredths, 1:19.905. Superb laps by both Raikkonen and Alonso.
"It is quite unexpected for me to be on the pole, to be honest, but the team did a great job overnight to improve the car, and it felt quick straight away this morning," said Alonso. "That meant I went into qualifying with a good level of confidence, and I could really attack on the timed lap."
"Looking to tomorrow, I think we will see more similar strategies than in Magny-Cours, which will make it hard for people behind to make up positions, but it is still a long race here and anything can happen."
Button is quite happy to be starting on the front row. "It's a great feeling to be lining up on the front row of the grid at my home race and in my highest-ever qualifying position here at Silverstone," he commented.
"We got everything we could out of the car for qualifying but we do have a very good race balance and strategy, so I think we can have a good race from here and target the podium for sure."
Montoya is hoping for a better time tommorrow after what has been a difficult season so far. "Qualifying is important here at Silverstone and whilst it's a disadvantage to be out early, I still managed to get on the second row and I hope it will be a strong race for me," he said.
It's quite an interesting grid for the race; Button will line up alongside Alonso which is great for the home crowds. Montoya will go from third and Raikkonen 12th but look at how McLaren dealt with the situation in France -- the pair were up to second and third by the first pit stops so Kimi can't be counted out.
"It's frustrating having to change engines and incur the 10 place penalty again, but we showed in France last weekend what is possible," the Finn remarked. "There is nothing I can do but get on with things, push as hard as possible and hope our strategists got things right."
Toyota got both cars in the top ten, as did Ferrari, but neither were especially notable. Williams wrestled with Red Bull in the midfield but Villeneuve did reasonably well to finish 11th. As usual fuel loads and strategy will come into play so for the moment it's not very clear cut who may have the advantage.
From what was thought to be a sure-fire McLaren victory, the situation now looks very different. Alonso's chances have much improved but Button and Montoya will be hungry for their first win of the season. Raikkonen will surely make his way through the field so there are several drivers in with a chance of the top step of the podium.
Final top eight classification: Alonso, Raikkonen, Button, Montoya, Trulli, Barrichello, Fisichella, Sato.