McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya will start the Italian Grand Prix from pole position with Renault's Fernando Alonso alongside in second. Montoya's teammate Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest man in qualifying with a time of 1:20.878 but the Finn has to...
McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya will start the Italian Grand Prix from pole position with Renault's Fernando Alonso alongside in second. Montoya's teammate Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest man in qualifying with a time of 1:20.878 but the Finn has to drop ten places on the grid. BAR's Jenson Button will also move up one from fourth to start from third.
Not only was there the news before morning practices that Williams' Nick Heidfeld was suffering headaches after a crash in testing at Monza last week and was replaced by team tester Antonio Pizzonia, but just before qualifying Raikkonen had to have the engine changed in his McLaren. It seems there was a valve problem and Raikkonen will have to take the grid demotion penalty.
Track temperature was in the low forties as Pizzonia led out, having not raced in Turkey but Williams was starting first anyway as both Heidfeld and Mark Webber retired from Istanbul. It was at Monza last year when Pizzonia last raced for Williams and his qualifying lap this time around was a 1:23.291. Webber was seven tenths up for 1:22.560, although there was plenty of room for improvement on that.
Sauber's Felipe Massa was faster than the previous pair through the middle sector then lost out in the last but split the Williams drivers, half a second down on Webber. Michael Schumacher has been pushing the Ferrari hard this weekend and he had a good lap to take provisional pole with 1:21.721, over eight tenths up. How Ferrari will fare in the race remains to be seen but it gave the home crowds reason to cheer.
Christijan Albers' Minardi had a moment in the gravel at the second Lesmo and finished over five seconds off the pace. Tiago Monteiro's new Jordan EJ15B was three seconds down on Michael, behind Pizzonia, while teammate Narain Karthikeyan's car was only just repaired in time after his crash in practice. The older Jordan was just over a second slower than Monteiro but ahead of Albers.
The second Minardi of Robert Doornbos had a pretty good lap to go ahead of Karthikeyan and teammate Albers. Ralf Schumacher was the first Toyota out and slotted in behind Michael, half a second off. Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve had a good lap to take provisional third ahead of both Williams. Rubens Barrichello was on pole at Monza for Ferrari last year but this time he couldn't make it, two tenths down on Michael for second.
Takuma Sato was quick in the last practice session and the BAR was up in the first sector. He was fastest of all so far through the middle and last sectors and took the top spot with a 1:21.477, two and a half tenths up on the lead Ferrari. Christian Klien's Red Bull had a reasonable lap to slot into sixth, ahead of the two Williams drivers, and teammate David Coulthard went one better for fifth, about two tenths up on Klien.
Toyota's Jarno Trulli had a storming middle sector but it wasn't quite enough to beat Sato, a tenth and a half down for second. Jenson Button was a little down on BAR teammate Sato in the first sector but picked up in the middle, then threw it over the line to take provisional pole by tenth, 1:21.369. Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Renault and botched the first chicane then went wide in the middle sector, which left him sixth.
Montoya has the chance now, with Raikkonen's penalty, to take this race and he made sure he didn't make any mistakes in qualifying. A nice smooth lap gave him a provisional pole time of 1:21.054, three tenths up on Button. Alonso won't be displeased about Raikkonen's penalty and the Renault was two tenths down on Montoya but ahead of the BARs, which was what he needed.
Raikkonen was the last to run and, as usual, put everything into it and scorched round to take pole position with a 1:20.876, just under two tenths ahead of Montoya. That will put him 11th on the grid -- with McLaren's speed and the right strategy he can win the race from there. If anyone can do it Raikkonen can, but it certainly won't be easy and rival Alonso will be starting from the front row.
So, Montoya will start the Italian GP from pole, with Alonso alongside. "A clean and fast lap and I am pretty happy with my performance," said the Colombian. "It is good to start from the front, and I now need a trouble free run to the first corner. To get through there without problems is crucial. Unfortunately Kimi has to start from 11th, but a lot is still possible."
Alonso was pleased with his efforts: "We have had a few more problems with the car than we expected this weekend, after a good test, but we worked quite a lot this morning to prepare for the race and improve the handling. Even so, I had some doubts about our speed over one single lap, but I showed the speed was there this afternoon -- which makes me even more confident for tomorrow."
With Raikkonen's demotion, Button and Sato will go from row two in third and fourth respectively, a great result for the Brackley squad. "Today was a much better day for us than yesterday and most of the credit for this great improvement should go to our engineers and drivers, who came up with a revised set-up which worked much better," said sporting director Gil de Ferran.
Raikkonen was naturally disappointed, after doing the best time, but has hopes for the race. "Having to start from 11th position I face a difficult race but it was the best I could achieve," the Finn commented. "However the speed of our car is so good, which means I still see a chance of moving up the field and you never know what happens."
Trulli has been quicker than Ralf all weekend and will start from fifth, while Ralf is four behind in ninth. Not a bad result for Toyota and Trulli was pleasantly surprised. "I was not expecting to be so quick or to be able to put together a lap time like that," he said. "But the car behaved well and the lap was clean, smooth and just aggressive enough."
Ferrari put on a fairly decent show for the home fans with Michael and Barrichello in the top ten, where they will start from sixth and seventh. Fisichella's scrappy lap put him eighth and Coulthard will complete the top ten. Klien was 13th. Sauber was average, Villeneuve 12th and Massa 15th.
Williams was a bit of a disappointment after the speed the cars showed in practices, Webber 14th and Pizzonia 16th, although naturally they weren't helped by running first. Monteiro led the last two rows in 17th, followed by Doornbos, Karthikeyan and Albers.
Raikkonen's penalty has changed the landscape of Sunday's race. Now a lot of questions have arisen -- not that there weren't any in the first place, but now there's a whole different set of interesting possibilities. The answers could be even more interesting. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Montoya, Alonso, Button, Sato, Trulli, M. Schumacher, Barrichello.