Japanese GP: Michelin Saturday qualifying notes

MICHELIN ON POLE - RALF SCHUMACHER SCORES FOR TOYOTA Ralf Schumacher has given Toyota pole position for its home grand prix at Suzuka. The German posted a 1m 46.106s lap on a damp track - and a late downpour denied the late- running drivers an...

MICHELIN ON POLE - RALF SCHUMACHER SCORES FOR TOYOTA

Ralf Schumacher has given Toyota pole position for its home grand prix at Suzuka. The German posted a 1m 46.106s lap on a damp track - and a late downpour denied the late- running drivers an opportunity to challenge his time.

It is the sixth pole position of Schumacher's F1 career on Michelin tyres, a second for Toyota - and the 99th for Michelin, which could complete its century in the season-closing Chinese GP at Shanghai next Sunday.

Jenson Button (B*A*R-Honda) qualified second, 0.035s adrift, and Michelin cars took the top eight places. Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) will line up third ahead of Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing - a career-best fourth), Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda), David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing), Mark Webber (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) and Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber-Petronas).

Outgoing world champion Michael Schumacher crashed heavily on his second flying lap during this morning's opening free practice session, when relatively few drivers bothered to venture out in wet conditions.

Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta has been fined $5,000 (about ^À4,120) for failing to respect yellow warning flags during yesterday's free practice sessions.

Antonio Pizzonia (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) spun on his out lap during the qualifying session, but was able to restart and will start the race 12th. Jordan driver Tiago Monteiro lost control on his out lap, too, but had to abandon his car in the gravel at Degner Curve.

Toyota driver Jarno Trulli posted an impressive first sector time, but then spun at Degner Curve and failed to complete his qualifying lap.

Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:

"We have had an opportunity to test all three types of tyre during the past couple of days and I'm pleased to say that our intermediates and maxi-wets are working every bit as well as our dries."

"Track conditions didn't improve a great deal during the early part of the qualifying session, because cars were sending up great plumes of spray that simply settled back on the circuit."

"Conditions then deteriorated very suddenly - and very dramatically - during the final few minutes, so Fernando Alonso and the McLaren drivers took the wise decision to abandon intermediates in favour of maxi-wets.

"Ralf Schumacher was one of several drivers who put together an excellent lap in tricky conditions and I'd like to congratulate Toyota on taking pole position for its home race."

Nick Shorrock, director of Michelin F1 activities:

"Although we haven't done any dry running today, we accumulated plenty of valuable information on Friday - not least because teams completed a high number of laps in the morning session, in anticipation of the impending rain."

"We spent a little longer than usual poring over the data yesterday evening, but the teams have given us excellent feedback and facilitated the decision-making process. There might be more showers tomorrow morning, but we anticipate a dry start. That being the case, our 'prime' and 'option' tyres will both feature in the race."

Tsutomu Tomita, team principal, Panasonic Toyota Racing:

"Our new TF105B chassis is working well and we had no problem at all with the tyres.The Michelin tyres were perfect."

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Antonio Pizzonia , Michael Schumacher , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Jacques Villeneuve , Ricardo Zonta , Fernando Alonso , Tiago Monteiro , Christian Klien
Teams Red Bull Racing , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Toyota Racing , Jordan