Jenson Button gave Ferrari a poke with a very sharp stick indeed when he took pole position for the San Marino Grand Prix in front of the Scuderia's home crowd. The maiden pole for Button and BAR was a well deserved one, 1:19.753 on the clock and...
Jenson Button gave Ferrari a poke with a very sharp stick indeed when he took pole position for the San Marino Grand Prix in front of the Scuderia's home crowd. The maiden pole for Button and BAR was a well deserved one, 1:19.753 on the clock and the fastest time of the Imola weekend so far. Michael Schumacher was two tenths behind and Juan Pablo Montoya took third for Williams.
Dry and sunny conditions greeted the preliminary session, air and track temperature around 26 degrees. Schumacher, as winner of the last race, started proceedings and set a time of 1:20.440, a pretty fast benchmark. Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello was half a second down and Button, who had been challenging Michael all weekend, closed the gap to the lead Ferrari to two tenths for second.
Jarno Trulli was the first Renault out and went fourth fastest, well over a second down on Michael. Button's teammate Takuma Sato couldn't match Jenson's pace but outdid Trulli to take the fourth slot. The second Renault of Fernando Alonso was a conservative sixth but Ralf Schumacher wasn't hanging around. Provisional pole of 1:20.423 for the Williams, just under two hundredths of a second up on brother Michael.
Mark Webber's Jaguar outpaced the Renaults for sixth but was still over a second off the top time. Olivier Panis took the position off him and Toyota teammate Cristiano da Matta posted ninth ahead of Alonso. Giancarlo Fisichella clocked an amazing fourth fastest, completely out of sync with Sauber's performance so far this weekend, just three tenths down on Ralf.
Teammate Felipe Massa, in comparison, only managed 12th. The second Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya was fastest of all through sector one, even more so in two and walloped it home with a 1:19.805 -- the fastest time of the weekend at that point. The Colombian was first into the 1:19 bracket and a stunning six tenths up on Ralf.
Christian Klien struggled after his crash in practice this morning, 14th. Jordan's Nick Heidfeld was 15th and teammate Giorgio Pantano 16th. They were followed by Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni, a rather large six seconds off the pace in 17th. David Coulthard was the first McLaren out and posted a respectable fifth. Zsolt Baumgartner, who spun off and damaged his racecar in practice, switched to the spare and was 19th. Kimi Raikkonen was last man out and the Finn couldn't match Coulthard. He took ninth, half a second down on his McLaren teammate and 1.3 off provisional pole.
Baumgartner, who was naturally shuffled down the order by the McLarens, started the second session. The Hungarian repeated an earlier error at Variante Alta and spun off. Bruni was a consistent six seconds down on the pace but Pantano picked it up a bit, three seconds faster than the Minardi. Still over three seconds down on pole though. Heidfeld, surprisingly, couldn't match teammate Pantano, his time a tenth slower.
Klien was comfortably up on the Jordans, setting provisional pole with a 1:21.949 but Massa clipped a few tenths off the Jaguar to go top with a 1:21.532. Alonso took it down even more, 1:20.895 and sixth tenths quicker, a solid performance but there was room for improvement on that. Da Matta couldn't do it but took second and neither could Trulli, although the Italian robbed da Matta for the second slot.
Webber was up on Alonso in the second sector but got out of shape in Rivazza, taking second just two hundredths down on the Renault. Panis had a ragged lap and struggled to sixth. Raikkonen's McLaren showed an engine glitch on the telemetry during practice and first qualifying and his second run was aborted. He will have an engine change and start at the back of the grid for tomorrow's race. Raikkonen deserves so much more than these inexcusable failures and McLaren should hang its head in shame.
Sato took the popular second spot, just two hundredths down on Alonso and Barrichello was the first of the Ferraris. Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian took pole by half a second, 1:20.451. Fisichella was supposed to be out next but there was a problem with the car and he didn't get out on track. Button belted out a stunning provisional pole, 1:19.753, even better than Montoya's effort in the first session. Excellent stuff from BAR but could anyone beat it? "Fantastic!" said a delighted Button. "Even if we end P3 it will be good."
Coutlhard struggled to a mediocre eighth and then it was Michael's turn. Pushing hard he went out of shape over the kerbs at Variante Alta and couldn't pull it back, slotting into second with a gap of two tenths. Ralf had a slow first sector and was already half a second down by mid way, finishing fourth. It was all down to Montoya but he just couldn't find the pace he showed earlier, taking third.
An impressive maiden pole position for Button and BAR, it was an excellent, focused lap. Button was challenging Michael all weekend and made it stick when it mattered most. It bodes well for an interesting race, with the Williams' and Ferraris mixed up behind Button. Renault was somewhat conservative but both drivers did a good job and the less said about McLaren the better. Final top eight classification: Button, M. Schumacher, Montoya, Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Alonso, Sato, Webber.