MICHELIN TITLE CONTENDERS WELL PLACED Montoya lines up alongside Schumacher for Monza showdown; RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen fourth Local favourite Michael Schumacher delighted the partisan Monza crowd by qualifying his Ferrari on pole position for the Italian...
MICHELIN TITLE CONTENDERS WELL PLACED
Montoya lines up alongside Schumacher for Monza showdown; Räikkönen fourth
Local favourite Michael Schumacher delighted the partisan Monza crowd by qualifying his Ferrari on pole position for the Italian Grand Prix -- the first time he has started on the front row since the GP of Europe in June. He was just 0.051s ahead of closest title rival Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin), however, and third world title contender Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin) will also be a factor tomorrow: the Finn qualified fourth, just behind Schumacher's team-mate Rubens Barrichello.
World title outsider Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) will not be taking part, however. The team was forced to make a change this morning because the German has withdrawn from the meeting. Although he drove in yesterday's qualifying session, he has been suffering serious headaches -- the likely consequence of his serious accident during a recent test here. Regular reserve driver Marc Gené has taken over -- and he qualified a spirited fifth. It will be the Spaniard's first Formula One start since he raced for Minardi in 2000.
Among the other Michelin runners, Jarno Trulli put together a neat lap to qualify his Renault sixth but team-mate Fernando Alonso, hero of the recent Hungarian GP, spun at the start of his run and will start from 20th and last place. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes, eighth) was one second adrift of team-mate Räikkönen. The Scot admits he doesn't enjoy the one-shot qualifying format and has only qualified in the top six four times this season.
Olivier Panis was the sixth Michelin driver to crack the top 10. The Toyota driver was delayed by electrical problems and an engine failure during the morning's final free practice session, but he bounced back to qualify ninth. Team-mate Cristiano da Matta spearheaded Toyota's challenge yesterday but his chassis did not feel so well balanced in today's conditions and he was only 12th
Jaguar star Mark Webber admits that the team is likely to struggle this weekend: the R4 is struggling for top-end speed and over a long run is not as kind on its tyres as other Michelin-shod chassis. He starts 11th while team-mate Justin Wilson, who has been plagued by a number of technical problems this weekend, lines up 15th.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director
MICHELIN TITLE FIGHTERS PUNCH THEIR WEIGHT
Michelin's world title contenders Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) and Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) are nicely placed to challenge for victory in tomorrow's Italian GP. They will line up second and fourth -- the fastest of seven Michelin cars in the top 12. Michelin has qualified on the front row for the past nine rounds of the Formula One world championship and motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said:
"It seems like our packages have proved to be very competitive. Juan Pablo was quickest for eight-tenths of his lap and only missed pole position by a fraction. We expected our main rivals to be a threat here, because their cars are optimised for circuits such as this, but what we have seen so far makes me optimistic that we will be challenging for our for our eighth victory of the campaign."
A STIRRING TEAM EFFORT
BMW WilliamsF1 Team stand-in Marc Gené (fifth), Jarno Trulli (Renault, sixth), David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes, eighth), Olivier Panis (Toyota, 10th), Mark Webber (Jaguar, 11th) and Critiano Da Matta (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 12th ) were the other Michelin drivers to qualify in the top 12. The company's F1 programme manager Pascal Vasselon said: "We have dominated recent qualifying sessions and were very close to annexing another pole position today. Overall, this has been a very satisfying performance. All our partner teams are well placed and that is a tribute both to them and to everybody at Michelin, where the staff have worked incredibly hard to prepare for this event."
Track conditions have not evolved a great deal since yesterday, but it became clear during this morning's final free practice sessions that one of Michelin's three dry-weather options was particularly suited to the prevailing conditions at Monza. Pascal Vasselon said: "All 10 Michelin cars will use the same type of tyre tomorrow and we expect it to be fast and consistent in equal measure."