Ferrari returned to form in Friday qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher taking provisional pole position with a 1:20.628. Team-mate Rubens Barrichello followed up in second and the Williams duo of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were hot on the heels of the Scuderia.
Juan Pablo Montoya started the second group, the Williams man taking provisional pole with 1:21.490. Rubens Barrichello was the first Ferrari out and clocked the fastest second sector, finishing 0.4 faster than Montoya. Michael Schumacher followed his team-mate onto the track, setting the quickest first sector, then the second and third to take pole with 1:20.628.
Brother Ralf followed in the Williams, going faster again in the first two sectors but losing out slightly at the end to claim position three. Heinz-Harald Frentzen completed the second group, the Sauber pretty well on the place of the McLarens and ending in seventh behind Coulthard.
Jacques Villeneuve started the third group, a good first and second sectors putting him up into fifth position ahead of the McLarens. BAR team-mate Jenson Button was next up with another very good lap, sneaking ahead of Villeneuve by just three hundredths of a second.
Nick Heidfeld only managed a disappointing twelfth for Sauber, then the Jaguar of Mark Webber put in a strong lap to go fifth, just a couple of tenths off the Williams' times. Toyota's Cristiano da Matta rounded off the group, having a poor lap to take position fifteen.
Ralph Firman commenced the final five, the Jordan driver putting in a steady but unspectacular lap to go fifteenth ahead of da Matta. Minardi's Jos Verstappen took seventeenth on his run, followed by Antonio Pizzonia. The Brazilian put the Jaguar at the top of the times in testing but could only manage fourteenth in this session.
Justin Wilson was four and a half seconds off pole to take nineteenth and last man out, Olivier Panis, made a good effort to put the Toyota into twelfth.
A good result for Webber, Button and Villeneuve, all ahead of the McLarens, and Ferrari belying their slow start in practice this morning. Williams is looking good this weekend and McLaren so far a bit conservative. The rest were a mixed bunch; Sauber has been disappointing so far this season and Renault was lacking somewhat, outside the top ten.
However, tomorrow is another day, as they say, and Saturday qualifying could easily produce some more of the interesting grid positions we've had so far. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Montoya, Webber, Button, Villeneuve, Raikkonen.