Maiden pole for Raikkonen at European GP

Kimi Raikkonen took his maiden pole position in fine style during qualifying for the European Grand Prix and the first pole for McLaren this season. Last man out on track, Raikkonen claimed front of the grid with a 1:31.523, three hundredths of a...

Kimi Raikkonen took his maiden pole position in fine style during qualifying for the European Grand Prix and the first pole for McLaren this season. Last man out on track, Raikkonen claimed front of the grid with a 1:31.523, three hundredths of a second ahead of the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher and Williams' Ralf Schumacher was third.

After Friday's wet conditions, Saturday was fine at the Nürburgring. BAR's Jacques Villeneuve, who was a victim of yesterday's rain, started first with a 1:34.596, a poor time compared to practice sessions. "It was a bad lap," the Canadian admitted. "I lost a lot of time in turn one when I locked up the front wheels."

Cristiano da Matta took the top slot next with a 1:32.949, a more competitive time. The Toyota man was eclipsed by teammate Olivier Panis, 1:32.350, the Frenchman continuing his good performance. In between them Antonio Pizzonia had a cautious lap for second fastest on his run.

Panis held provisional pole for some time; the Minardi pair of Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson were about four seconds adrift but Jordan's Ralph Firman put in a good effort for third.

"It went reasonably well except for a lock up near the end, at the hairpin," said Firman. "It was not too bad but there's a long way to go yet."

Sauber was in dire problems, Nick Heidfeld needing an engine change before his flying lap. He couldn't take the spare as Heinz-Harald Frentzen had already bagged it after an engine failure in practice. Amazingly, Sauber managed a 25 minute engine change to get Heidfeld out. Unfortunately it came to nothing when the German locked up into turn one, spun, then the engine stalled.

Jaguar's Mark Webber took third, seven tenths down on Panis but over a second faster than teammate Pizzonia. "I got a little bit wide out of turn four," said the Australian. "I braked a bit deep. Overall it was a fairly tidy lap so I'm pretty happy with it. We didn't expect to do that well."

Jenson Button went fourth fastest on his flyer but was over a second off pole. Giancarlo Fisichella managed fifth and Renault's Fernando Alonso was the first to get close to Panis. The young Spaniard went second, just seven hundredths off the Toyota. Teammate Jarno Trulli finally shifted Panis from the top with a 1:31.976, the first into the 1:31 bracket and half a second up.

David Coulthard started McLaren's efforts, having a dodgy moment at turn one and later kicked up some dust, seven tenths down in fourth. Rubens Barrichello was the first Ferrari out, the Brazilian having a ragged lap with a couple of lock ups but still managing pole with a 1:31.780. A very good last sector put him at the front but it didn't last.

The Williams pair were well matched, Ralf Schumacher out first and snatching pole with a 1:31.619. Juan Pablo Montoya's first sector was exactly the same time as Ralf but he lost out slightly to go second. Michael did a lap that by rights should have seen him fifth or sixth. He was down by one and half tenths in sector one then locked up into the hairpin. Despite that, he still managed to pick up and take pole with a 1:31.555, six hundredths quicker than Ralf.

That left Raikkonen with it all to do -- and he did. The Finn was up on Michael in sector one by a tenth, dropped it slightly in two and then stormed through the final sector to hit it home with a 1:31.523. Maiden pole position for Kimi and a very well deserved one. Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug nearly punched a hole in the pit wall station in his glee.

It was very close at the end, pole falling by mere hundredths. An excellent effort from Raikkonen and the Williams' looking good. Ferrari managed great times despite a pair of unsettled performances and a good lap byTrulli seeing as Renault has surprisingly off the pace so far. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher, Montoya, Barrichello, Trulli, Panis, Alonso.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan