It will be a Ferrari front row for the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher taking pole position in qualifying ahead of Rubens Barrichello. Schumacher's pole time of 1:19.146 was just under two tenths up on his teammate. Takuma...
It will be a Ferrari front row for the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher taking pole position in qualifying ahead of Rubens Barrichello. Schumacher's pole time of 1:19.146 was just under two tenths up on his teammate. Takuma Sato took position three and Jenson Button in fourth made a BAR second row.
Conditions were warm and dry at the start of preliminary qualifying, the track temperature up around 40 degrees. Schumacher came out for his first lap and clocked the fastest time of the weekend so far -- 1:19.107 for the Ferrari, an impressive time to start with and not an easy one to beat.
Button, the pacesetter in the morning's final practice session, was over seven tenths down in the BAR. Renault's Fernando Alonso, winner at the Hungaroring last year, was over a second off Schumacher for third. David Coulthard was the first McLaren out and was even further distant, 1.5 off provisional pole.
Juan Pablo Montoya had the quickest first sector but really lost out in the middle. The Williams was a reasonable second, though, seven tenths slower than Schumacher. Jaguar has not been looking too enthusiastic this weekend and Mark Webber was over second down already in the first sector. It was a clean lap but he finished 2.3 off the pace.
Antonio Pizzonia, who was flying in practices, couldn't match Williams teammate Montoya but managed fourth behind Button. Sato was up on Button in the middle and last sectors and clocked second, closing the gap to Schumacher to half a second.
Giancarlo Fisichella had a very good lap in the Sauber, taking the second slot just fractionally ahead of Sato. Christian Klien couldn't make his Jaguar any quicker than Webber and ended a couple of hundredths behind his teammate. Jarno Trulli had a quick start but faded towards the end of his lap and put the Renault sixth.
Barrichello was up on Schumacher in all three sectors and took provisional pole with a staggering 1:18.436, nearly seven tenths faster. An absolutely scorching lap from the Brazilian. The second Sauber of Felipe Massa also flew, posting third quickest to beat teammate Fisichella by a hundredth of a second.
Olivier Panis was the first Toyota out and managed 11th, ahead of Coulthard and the Jaguars, and Giorgio Pantano the first Jordan. The Italian posted 12th behind Panis, a good initial result for Jordan. Zsolt Baumgartner led Minardi out and was over six seconds off provisional pole -- teammate Gianmaria Bruni was quicker by over a second.
The second Jordan of Nick Heidfeld had a very good lap for 11th and Kimi Raikkonen was the penultimate runner. The Finn put his McLaren 10th, which was not great but better than Coulthard. Toyota's Ricardo Zonta was last out for his first qualifying session as team race driver and managed a reasonable 12th.
Some teams had expected higher temperatures than the unusually overcast conditions in qualifying, and the tyre choices might not have been the best ones. Michelin may have gone well at the Hungaroring last year but it seemed in today's pre-qualifying that some of the Bridegstone runners had the edge over a fast lap.
While one might expect Ferrari to be at the front, Sauber had two very quick laps to take third and fourth. Heidfeld was the next best Bridegstone car in 13th, further up the list than usual. But how would they fare in the all-important final session? Overtaking at the Hungaroring is very difficult so the grid spot is even more important than usual.
Baumgartner kicked off the decisive session to the delight of his home crowd, although their cheers couldn't make the Minardi any faster and nor could the Bridgestone tyres -- his time was up in the 1:24 area. Bruni was three tenths down on his teammate, having a lot of lock ups.
Klien was comfortably faster, unsurprisingly, 1:21.118, which was better than his lap in pre-qualifying. Webber was another four tenths quicker, 1:20.730, but still not as good as it could have been. Coulthard couldn't outdo Webber and took second, a tenth and half down -- poor for McLaren.
Pantano's Jordan looked very twitchy but also comfortably beat the Minardis for fourth. The track temperature was dropping and the humidity climbing as the session went on, the clouds starting to look heavy in places. Panis was three tenths off provisional pole to take third.
Heidfeld couldn't match his pre-qualifying pace and clocked fifth, 1.4 down on Webber. Zonta was up on the Jaguar through sector one but dropped back to take the fifth slot from Heidfeld. Not too bad for his first race weekend, two spots behind Panis.
Alonso took provisional pole by a margin of seven tenths, 1:19.996, the first into the 1:20 bracket in the second session but some way off the front runners in pre-qualifying. Raikkonen couldn't match the Renault and took second, nearly six tenths off.
Pizzonia had a competent lap to take the second position, a better effort than his last qualifying session in Germany. A few stray drops of rain were present as Trulli took his second flyer, and he had a reasonable lap for third. It wasn't actually raining but the air was damp and threatening. Button's BAR looked in good shape and took provisional pole, 1:19.700 and nearly three tenths up.
Montoya had the fastest first sector but lost it as the lap went on and slotted into fourth -- behind Pizzonia. The rain hadn't materialised and the track conditions appeared good so Montoya's slack off was a bit mystifying. Sato kicked up some dust early in his lap but still managed to snatch provisional pole from Button by seven thousandths, 1:19.693.
Fisichella took sixth, six tenths down, which was pretty good if Sauber is sticking to its usual heavy fuel load for a long first stint in the race. However, the team decided not to run Massa for the second session as he will suffer the ten place demotion penalty for his blown engine in practice. Very frustrating for Massa, who had an excellent first lap.
So, the Ferraris took to the track last. Schumacher led off and went fastest, 1:19.146 and half a second up on Sato. Barrichello was fractionally up by the middle sector but lost over a tenth in the last and had to settle for second.
"The new Bridgestone tyre possibly gave us an advantage and along with Shell, they have given us a big push, helping us to pick up performance," said Schumacher. "I am not so surprised at the grid: we expected BAR and Renault to be competitive, even if I am surprised McLaren is a bit further back, but maybe they have a different strategy."
Barrichello was slightly disappointed not to be on pole: "My pre-qualifying was very good and my qualifying was good," he said. "I experienced a bit more understeer than we had expected which cost me time in the second sector. I knew it could have gone either way between me or Michael, so in a way it is disappointing not to have got pole, but Michael drove a perfect lap."
It looks good for Ferrari's constructors' title challenge tomorrow, with a scarlet front row. BAR won't be hanging around though and with Sato and Button right behind them, Schumacher and Barrichello are going to be under some pressure. The BARs will need to watch their backs as well, with Alonso starting from fifth.
"I'm really pleased with my lap. We expected to be strong here after Germany and this has proved to be the case," commented Sato. "I feel confident about the race and my focus now will be on achieving my objective of a podium finish."
Great news for Pizzonia to outqualify Montoya, albeit fractionally, but it made up for his nervous performance in qualifying in Germany. A very good result for Fisichella, it was just a shame for Massa that he didn't get a chance to have a second run. The McLarens suffered from a poor tyre choice, Raikkonen 10th and Coulthard 12th.
It's hard to see anything but a Ferrari triumph tomorrow but it's perhaps not guaranteed. BAR has been threatening the Scuderia for some time, and more consistently than most -- can the Brackley squad make it work on race day? Renault is one to watch as it will not be happy with both BARs in front, which threatens its second position in the constructors' standings. Final top eight classification: Schumacher, Barrichello, Sato, Button, Alonso, Pizzonia, Montoya, Fisichella.