Austrian GP: Michelin Saturday qualifying notes

LITTLE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN F1'S TOP TWO Schumacher takes 54th career pole -- but points leader Räikkönen is only 0.039s adrift World champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) is chasing a third straight Formula One victory this weekend in Austria --...

LITTLE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN F1'S TOP TWO
Schumacher takes 54th career pole -- but points leader Räikkönen is only 0.039s adrift

World champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) is chasing a third straight Formula One victory this weekend in Austria -- and he got his bid off to a flying start by securing pole position for tomorrow's race. It was a close call, though. The German had to push to the limit to unseat provisional pole winner -- and world championship leader -- Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin). The Finn strung together a faultless 1m 09.189s lap to claim second place on the grid, just 0.039 seconds adrift of Schumacher. Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, third) was the second Michelin driver in the top three.

The Colombian is happier with his FW25 chassis than he has been of late and believes the team has taken a step forward this weekend. He was almost a full second clear of team-mate Ralf Schumacher. After being forced to abort his first qualifying run when he spun into the gravel, the German put together a clean lap today and qualified 10th.

Jarno Trulli (Renault/Michelin) was sixth fastest but there was disappointment for his team-mate Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard lies third in the championship and has scored points in each of this season's five grands prix to date. After setting what was then the fastest time through the track's first sector, however, he ran wide through the gravel in Turn Five and will be 19th on the grid tomorrow.

Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar) completed a neat lap that netted a career-best eighth on the grid. Everything went wrong for team-mate Mark Webber, however. Third fastest in the opening session, the Australian ran wide at the first corner -- and then repeated the trick at Turn Nine. He was only 17th fastest as a result -- his worst qualifying performance of the season to date. It was a similar tale for second McLaren driver David Coulthard (14th). He lost a substantial chunk of time after running wide over the kerbs at the final at the final corner.

Olivier Panis (11th) was quickest of the Toyota runners -- and the team has picked up its pace after struggling initially to dial its TF103 chassis into the track. Rookie Cristiano da Matta had never been to Austria before this weekend, let alone seen the track, and he will start 13th.

Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director

SOME FINN GOOD
Michelin maintained its run of strong qualifying form during the build-up to this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix. World championship leader Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) qualified on the front row, just 0.039 seconds from pole position, and Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) was third. Jarno Trulli (Renault, sixth), Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar, eighth -- the best qualifying performance of his young F1 career) and Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, 10th) will also line up in the top 10 tomorrow.

Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "As usual, we won't know the true story behind today's qualifying times until we see how many laps drivers complete during their first stints in the race. It has been a very satisfying day for Michelin, however, and I am confident we are in good shape for the race. Things might have looked even stronger if several of our customary front-runners, such as Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and David Coulthard, hadn't had problems today. Such things are unfortunate -- but that's the nature of this business."

VOICES OF CONSENT
Michelin has brought four types of dry-weather tyre to the Austrian GP -- and two has shown to be exceptionally well suited to the conditions. Pierre Dupasquier: Most of our partner teams have come to similar conclusions this weekend. This is a track that has some similarities to Barcelona, host venue for the previous race in Spain, in that you need to evolve a workable compromise between high downforce and straight-line speed. The difference is that Barcelona is extremely hard on tyres and the A1-Ring isn't. Two of our four compounds has proved to be particularly fast this weekend and we have absolutely no concerns about durability."

TRACTION MAN
Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) made a flying start to the previous race in Spain and almost unsettled the Ferraris -- and Pierre Dupasquier expects the fastest Michelin qualifiers to challenge for the lead when the field streams into Turn One tomorrow. He said: "Our partner teams have excellent launch-control systems -- and since the beginning of the year we have seen that Michelin tyres give our drivers added bite off the line. I'm looking forward to the start."

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams