If McLaren and David Coulthard intend to stop Michael Schumacher from easing his way to a fourth world title they need to raise their game - and fast. The championship leader was in a class of his own in qualifying for the Canadian GP, taking his...
If McLaren and David Coulthard intend to stop Michael Schumacher from easing his way to a fourth world title they need to raise their game - and fast. The championship leader was in a class of his own in qualifying for the Canadian GP, taking his sixth pole at the track with a time half a second quicker than his nearest rival. And when the cars line up on the grid to tomorrow's race it will not be one of the silver McLaren-Mercedes that draws up next to him, but the Williams-BMW of his brother Ralf.
Although the elder Schumacher waited until almost half the session had elapsed before putting in his first run, once the Ferrari had crossed the line there was little doubt as to who would be on pole. His first effort was the quickest lap of the weekend, a 1m16.1s. That in itself would have been good enough for the top slot, but 10 minutes later he made sure with a stunning time of 1m15.782s. His lap was 2.7 seconds under his 2000 pole time and such was his advantage he was able to conserve a set of new tyres by not doing a final qualifying run.
During Free Practice the Williams appeared to struggle, and although Juan Pablo Montoya produced an unconvincing display to qualify 10th, team-mate Ralf Schumacher once again underlined his ability by throwing his car around with precision to get it onto the front row. Once again the FW22 was the quickest car on the track through the speed traps, and the German could prove very difficult to overtake/fend off in the race.
This will put extra pressure on David Coulthard to make a clean getaway, but at least from third on the grid he stands a fair chance. Prior to his last qualifying effort he looked as though he would have to leap up from fourth. The Scot's determination to secure a good starting position was evident towards the end of the hour, when he muscled his way to the head of the queue as the cars waited at the pitlane exit for one final frantic burst of activity. This came after the session had been halted following a crash at the final chicane.
Arguably the star of qualifying was Jordan's Jarno Trulli. The Italian put himself on top of the timesheets with an outstanding opening effort, and he held a front row spot for a large part of the session. He managed to whittle his time down by a few hundredths later on, but he had pushed the car to its limits and was unlucky to be denied third on the grid by Coulthard's late charge.
Schumacher: sixth pole position of the year
With less than 20 minutes of the session remaining Rubens Barrichello brought out the red flags when he had a sizeable accident at the final turn. The Brazilian tried to cut the chicane too fine, and as his undertray scrapped over the kerbs his left front wheel left the ground. With no turning momentum the Brazilian was a passenger, and when he regained control it was too late to prevent the inevitable. The Ferrari bounced off the wall, tearing both right hand wheels off and destroying the rear wing.
He jogged across the track and jumped over the pitwall to get back in the spare, but he failed to improve his time and will start a disappointing fifth. Olivier Panis had a good session for BAR, and held third spot for a while. However, he was unable to improve on his good first run and slipped down the order to sixth.
Kimi Raikkonen continues to impress, and will start from a career best position of seventh. For the first time in his brief time as an F1 driver he will also be the highest placed Finn, as Mika Hakkinen had another off day and finds himself down in eighth. The Finn was forced to use the spare car after causing irreparable damage to his race car after his bounced over one too many kerbs and damaged the side pod cover and undertray.
Jacques Villeneuve stayed clear of the barriers to take ninth. The 1997 world champion gave the local crowd something to cheer about when he briefly held pole at the start of the session. F1 returnee Ricardo Zonta did about as well as could have been expected to take 12th, ahead of Jos Verstappen who had a good run for Arrows.
The Jaguar Racing drivers were separated by just one thousandth of a second, but 14th and 15th was not what the team was hoping for after a strong showing in practice. For the first time this season Eddie Irvine was out-qualified by his team-mate, although the fact that he was baulked by Pedro de la Rosa on his final flying lap played a small but significant part. Both drivers complained of a general lack of grip and face a tough task tomorrow if they are to get into the points. The one advantage they have is good straightline speed, and Eddie was even quicker than the Williams through the final speed trap.
Nick Heidfeld also brought the session to halt when he slammed his barrier into the same bit of wall that Barrichello had marked earlier. The accident took place in much the same manner as the Brazilian's, the only difference was that instead of trying to turn out of the crash, Heidfeld decided to put on the brakes, and he hit the wall front on as a result.