Fernando Alonso put in a scorching lap to secure pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix, his second consecutive front of the grid start. The Renault man clocked an aggregate time of 3:01.902, nearly half a second quicker than Michael Schumacher,...
Fernando Alonso put in a scorching lap to secure pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix, his second consecutive front of the grid start. The Renault man clocked an aggregate time of 3:01.902, nearly half a second quicker than Michael Schumacher, who took second in the new Ferrari F2005. Toyota's Jarno Trulli dropped one place from Saturday qualifying to start from third.
The track temperature was a little over 40 degrees at the start of the session, with the air only few degrees lower. Minardi's Patrick Friesacher led out; he started with a five second deficit to provisional pole man Alonso and clocked 3:11.261 for his aggregate time. Teammate Christijan Albers maintained his lead over Friesacher by eight tenths, 3:10.422.
Tiago Monteiro headed the pair of Jordans and took over with an advantage of nearly a second, 3:09.428. Narain Karthikeyan followed on and had a poor middle sector to take second, seven tenths down. It's the first time Monteiro has bettered Karthikeyan in qualifying.
Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve was unsurprisingly well over a second quicker, 3:07.983, but it was a bit of an untidy lap. He was followed by Rubens Barrichello, who's Ferrari has a new gearbox after his troubles earlier in the weekend. The Brazilian was fastest, 3:07.693, but came to a halt on the track after he finished his lap.
David Coulthard was the first Red Bull and clocked 3:05.844 for provisional pole, nearly two seconds faster than Barrichello. BAR's Takuma Sato, despite going rather wide at turn 12, managed 3:05.563 to take over at the top. Teammate Jenson Button was quicker still, 3:04.308 for over a second up.
Ralf Schumacher was the first Toyota on track and was well ahead of Button by the middle sector. He crossed the line to post 3:03.271, again over a second up. Felipe Massa couldn't keep up with Ralf but his Sauber split the BARs for third, and four places ahead of teammate Villeneuve.
Pedro de la Rosa's McLaren had a fairly good lap to take second, just a tenth down on Ralf, and the second Red Bull of Christian Klien was better yet, taking the place by hundredths. A very good effort by Klien to leave teammate Coulthard trailing by five positions.
Kimi Raikkonen lost out in the final sector and put his McLaren fourth but it was close at the top, the Finn only a couple of tenths down on Ralf. De la Rosa will be pleased to have outqualified Raikkonen. Mark Webber took provisional pole in the Williams by just nine thousandths, 3:03,262.
Giancarlo Fisichella led out for Renault but had a scrappy lap and only managed sixth. Nick Heidfeld was up on Williams teammate Webber by four hundredths to take provisional pole, 3:03.217 -- how much closer could it get with three to go?
Michael was a comfortable eight tenths quicker, 3:02.357, which was not going to be easy to beat. Trulli couldn't manage it, his Toyota three tenths off for second, which left it all up to Alonso. The Spaniard was calm and collected and fired off a 3:01.902 to secure his second pole position in succession.
A brilliant lap by Alonso and over four tenths up on Michael. However, it looks set to be a very close fight at the front in this afternoon's race. Only the top three in this qualifying were within a second; the gap widened to two seconds by Fisichella in 10th and the last six, including Barrichello, were all over five seconds off the pace.
"The wind was strong again today, and the circuit conditions a little bit worse than yesterday afternoon," said Alonso. "But nevertheless I managed to do a good lap, and tried not to make any mistakes. It wasn't perfect, but I did what was necessary to keep pole position."
Schumacher was was happy with second place. "I must say that the car felt really good with a heavy fuel load, which is something we had already seen in private testing," he said. "On my lap, I made a mistake at Turn 4, which cost me some time, but not enough to have lost me pole. I am happy to be on the front row and am looking forward to a good race."
This was the first time that the top three positions changed during Sunday qualifying and Trulli dropped from second to third. "For the first time this season, I will not start from the front row of the grid, but I think third is a still a good result and representative of our current competitiveness," the Italian commented.
Barrichello's problem was again the gearbox and he will revert to the previous gearbox, which has been fixed. Ferrari has changed the engine in his car as a precutionary measure and the Brazilian will start from the back of the grid.
Can Alonso add a second win to his second pole? The car undoubtedly has the speed and Fernando is driving superbly -- but there's this German called Schumacher in a scarlet car alongside him on the grid… Final top eight classification: Alonso, M. Schumacher, Trulli, Heidfeld, Webber, R. Schumacher, Klien, de la Rosa.