SEVEN UP -- AND A NEW RECORD -- FOR MONTOYA Williams-BMW drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher fought an epic battle with world champion Michael Schumacher's Ferrari at Monza -- and Montoya emerged on top to secure his seventh pole ...
SEVEN UP -- AND A NEW RECORD -- FOR MONTOYA
Williams-BMW drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher fought an epic battle with world champion Michael Schumacher's Ferrari at Monza -- and Montoya emerged on top to secure his seventh pole position of the season. It was also a new Formula One record -- his average lap speed of 259.827 km/h broke the 17-year-old record set by Williams-Honda driver Keke Rosberg at Silverstone in 1985.
The Colombian, who celebrates his 27th birthday next week, lapped in 1m 20.264s -- just 0.257s ahead of Schumacher Snr and 0.278s up on team-mate Ralf. Ferrari number two Rubens Barrichello was also an outside contender to take the pole, but he had to abort his first run after running wide off the track and he had to settle for fourth place.
The session was red-flagged with a couple of minutes to go after a high-speed collision between Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin) and Takuma Sato (Jordan-Honda). Both drivers escaped unhurt and Räikkönen remained fifth overall and third of eight Michelin drivers in the top 12.
The Michelin-shod Jaguar R3s of Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa maintained their improved form and qualified sixth and eighth respectively -- by far their best qualifying positions of the campaign. Previously neither driver has lined up better than ninth this season.
Of the other leading Michelin drivers David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) was seventh ahead of Mika Salo (Toyota, 10th), Jarno Trulli (Renault, 11th) and Allan McNish (Toyota, 13th). Jenson Button (Renault) struggled to balance his car for Monza's high-speed layout and was only 17th. The KL Minardi-Asiatechs of Mark Webber and F1 returnee Alex Yoong made the cut comfortably in 19th and 20th positions. It will be Yoong's first race start since the French GP in July.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
Juan Pablo Montoya set Formula One's fastest-ever qualifying lap today at an average speed of 259.827 km (161.449 mph). That broke a 17-year-old record. It is his seventh pole position of the season and it has been quite a day for Michelin. Your drivers seem quite confident this weekend...
"Juan Pablo did a fantastic job and it is fair to say we are reasonably confident for the race. The tyre we have this weekend is quick in both racing and qualifying trim. We know that circumstances can always change tomorrow, of course. We saw that at Spa, where race performance bore no relation to what we saw on Saturday afternoon. That said, there is every reason to feel optimistic."
Will we see both your harder, primary (A) tyre and the softer option (B) in the race?
"No, I don't think we'll see too many option tyres... The primary is fast and durable. The option proved to be a little bit faster but was not as consistent. We brought it with us in case track conditions turned out to be cooler than those we have experienced."
Has the track evolved much since yesterday?
"Not really. Conditions changed a lot during yesterday but have remained pretty stable since. The track temperature was up to 30 degrees today but that hasn't affected the way our tyres have performed."
Is this likely to be a one- or two-stop race?
"Traditionally this is a one-stop race but we might see people gambling on two. Computer simulations say that both options could work."
Michelin has annexed nine of the top 13 places on the, so you have more cause for satisfaction than just the performance of Williams-BMW...
"Absolutely... but such situation is not exactly unknown, we have seen this kind of domination over the last few Grands Prix. Williams-BMW and McLaren look very strong -- and it is nice to see how much progress has made at Jaguar, because the team has been very quick all weekend."