As many people expected, McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen breezed to pole position in qualifying for the German Grand Prix, the Finn over four tenths quicker than his nearest rival with a time of 1:14.320. BAR's Jenson Button will start alongside in...
As many people expected, McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen breezed to pole position in qualifying for the German Grand Prix, the Finn over four tenths quicker than his nearest rival with a time of 1:14.320. BAR's Jenson Button will start alongside in second and the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella were third and fourth respectively.
The conditions were still quite cool but fine and dry, with a track temperature of around 30 degrees at the start of the session. Newly promoted to the ranks of F1 race drivers rather than testers, Minardi's Robert Doornbos was the first man out and recorded a time of 1:18.313 on his debut qualifying run. A rather cautious lap for the Dutchman.
Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan had a couple of off-track excursions and aborted his lap. The second Minardi of Christijan Albers made a good effort and clocked 1:17.519, eight tenths up on Doornbos. Tiago Monteiro's Jordan completed his lap without incident but was a second slower than Albers, so both Minardis were ahead of the Jordans.
BAR's Takuma Sato, unsurprisingly, was two seconds up on Albers to take the top spot with a time of 1:15.501. Christian Klien was the next runner and he held the Red Bull's good pace from the morning practices to take second, just over a tenth down on Sato. The track temperature had climbed to the mid thirties after 15 minutes.
Jacques Villeneuve was the first Sauber out and had a few lock ups, which put him behind Klien. David Coulthard couldn't outdo his teammate but put his Red Bull comfortably in front of Villeneuve. Nick Heidfeld's Williams had a good start and carried it through to take provisional pole, 1:15.403, a tenth up on Sato.
Mark Webber followed on in the second Williams and was fractionally faster through sectors one and two, and crossed the line just over three tenths up on Heidfeld, 1:15.070. Sauber's Felipe Massa made a bit of mistake at the hairpin but managed to just sneak ahead of Villeneuve by a couple of thousandths for provisional sixth.
Jarno Trulli's Toyota had a reasonable lap to slot in behind Sato for fourth and teammate Ralf Schumacher was a couple of tenths slower for seventh. Rubens Barrichello led out for Ferrari and could only manage tenth. The earlier cars were suspected to be running quite light but even so, Rubens didn't look particularly happy out there.
Michael Schumacher, on softer tyres and a lighter fuel load than his teammate, took a surprising provisional pole, 1:15.006, just six hundredths quicker than Webber. It didn't last long for Michael though, as Button went out a posted 1:14.759 to demote the Ferrari by a couple of tenths.
Fisichella slotted his Renault in behind Button and Raikkonen was out next. The McLaren was comfortably faster through all three sectors to take provisional pole by over four tenths, 1:14.320. Championship rival Alonso couldn't match it and went third after making a mistake at turn one which lost him time.
That left Juan Pablo Montoya as the last to run. He was on Raikkonen's pace through the first two sectors but he pushed just a bit too hard and the McLaren spun off into the gravel at the final corner. The car sustained some damage but Montoya was fine. But bad news for the team's constructors' title hopes as Juan Pablo will now have to start at the back.
"I just lost it," Montoya shrugged. "My car was a bit nervous in the corners and in the last sector it was very understeery. I can rescue some points but I just want to win races. I think I can get a podium here, we have the pace." McLaren boss Ron Dennis was not happy. "There was one corner to go, he only had to get round it," he grumped.
So, once again it's Raikkonen and Button on the front row of the grid, with Alonso and Fisichella looming behind. Michael finished fifth, which was not too bad but we will have too see how everyone's strategies pan out tomorrow. If Raikkonen can hold the lead at the start there's a good chance the speed of the McLaren will be unbeatable.
"I am happy to be on pole which is the position that the team deserves after all the hard work," said Raikkonen. "Surprisingly the car wasn't handling as well as in free practice this morning. My qualifying performance wasn't perfect as I had a short moment when I slid a little too much at the second to last corner due to oversteer. Anyway it's good to start from pole position, but I expect a tough race tomorrow."
Button is hoping to take advantage of his front row start. "I'm obviously delighted to be on the front row again -- for the second race in a row," he commented. "We have made progress since Silverstone but not quite enough to challenge the front runners yet, I don't think. We will be closer though and happy with that because it provides us with momentum to keep moving forward throughout the year."
Alonso was happy enough with third. "I knew I was down after the first sector, and really pushed after that to make up some time, which I managed to do," said the Spaniard. "We know that qualifying speed is our weak point at the moment, but the R25 is much quicker in race trim. I hope to make up a place at the start, and I am sure we have the right strategy. I want at least a podium -- and perhaps we will be able to fight for the win."
Both Williams drivers were in the top ten, which is what they were aiming for, and Sato's lap turned out to be good enough for eighth. The Toyotas were a bit disappointing, Trulli ninth and Ralf 12th, but the Red Bulls looked quite good, Klien 10th and Coulthard 11th. The Saubers were pretty much where one would expect, Massa 13th and Villeneuve 14th.
Barrichello ended up a lowly 15th, a full 10 places behind Michael so it'll be interesting to see how their strategies work out. Alonso will need to get ahead of Button at the start to be in with the chance of challenging Raikkonen -- it looks hopeful for a good race. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Button, Alonso, Fisichella, M. Schumacher, Webber, Heidfeld, Sato.