Kimi Raikkonen put in a storming performance to take provisional pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, the McLaren clocking 1:13.644 for half a second ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso. Alonso was out just before the Finn and did a great lap...
Kimi Raikkonen put in a storming performance to take provisional pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, the McLaren clocking 1:13.644 for half a second ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso. Alonso was out just before the Finn and did a great lap that looked hard to beat, but Raikkonen was on a mission. Williams' Mark Webber, who held provisional pole for a time, finished third. The session was red-flagged when the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher crashed but Ralf was unharmed.
Red Bull's Tonio Liuzzi was first to run and started the proceedings with a 1:16.817, after rather fighting the car round. Patrick Friesacher followed in the Minardi, some 1.7 seconds down, although it was a fairly tidy lap. Teammate Christijan Albers was seven tenths slower than Friesacher and took third.
Michael Schumacher was up next and the Ferrari took provisional pole by six tenths, 1:16.186, but there was plenty of room for improvement on that. Jacques Villeneuve led out for Sauber and was a quarter of a second quicker than Michael to take over with a 1:15.921.
Narain Karthikeyan was the first Jordan out and posted sixth but had an engine change this morning and will suffer the ten place grid demotion tomorrow. Teammate Tiago Monteiro took the position off him but both Jordans were behind the Minardis. Felipe Massa slotted his Sauber into third fractionally behind Michael.
Nick Heidfeld's Williams was almost eight tenths up on Villeneuve to take over provisional pole with a 1:15.128. The second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello took third, only just faster than Michael. David Coulthard, who was involved in a shunt this morning, was slightly up on Heidfeld in the first sector but the Rd Bull lost out in the last and clocked second.
McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya was very quick and the first man into the 1:14 bracket with a provisional pole time of 1:14.858. However, the Colombian was investigated by the stewards in regard to the incident in practice involving Coulthard and will be demoted to the back of the grid after it was decided he had been to blame.
The second Williams of Webber had a very neat and tidy lap to take over with a 1:14.584. Giancarlo Fisichella, fastest man this morning, put his Renault second after wrestling with understeer in the last sector. Ralf was the first Toyota and was going quite well until he clipped the barrier at Tabac with the left front wheel. The car hit the opposite barrier quite hard on the right and slid down the Armco.
There was a lot of debris, and the right hand side wheels were torn off, but Ralf was unharmed and exited the car unaided when the Toyota came to a halt. The session was red-flagged while the debris was cleared -- Ralf already had a half-second penalty due to a tyre infringement on Thursday so Toyota may not even bother sending him out in tomorrow's qualifying, as he'll be starting near back anyway.
The accident was bad news for Ralf's teammate Jarno Trulli, as well as Alonso and Raikkonen, as the marshals had to put down sand through Tabac and the run down to the Swimming Pool. Once the track was cleaned Trulli finally got to have his run almost 20 minutes later and had a rather difficult lap to take fifth.
Alonso was the penultimate runner and the Renault was up on Webber in the first sector. He was up further still through the middle and belted it over the line to go fastest by nearly half a second, 1:14.125. It was a great lap and left Raikkonen with a big task but the Finn was up to it. The McLaren flew round to take provisional pole with a 1:13.644.
Alonso's lap was superb but Raikkonen's was stunning -- the two drivers are really pushing each other on. However, Alonso has to think of the championship while Raikkonen, by his own admission, has nothing to lose. Kimi has a half second advantage over Fernando going into tomorrow's qualifying and looks likely to hold pole position.
"I'm happy with my qualifying lap and the gap to the opposition," said Raikkonen. "The car has been working well from the start of running so I knew we would be in with a good chance for provisional pole position."
"I could probably have gone even faster but was a little cautious at the Tabac corner where the track was still slightly slippery following Ralf Schumacher's accident and as a result I took a slightly different line."
Alonso was very happy with second: "The lap was quite good from my point of view and although the gap to Kimi is big, I am pleased to be on the front row because that is where you need to be at this circuit," he commented. "We will have to see if there are areas to improve for tomorrow, but I am feeling confident in the car's performance and consistency."
Webber was pleasantly surprised to end up third. "I am definitely happy with my lap and to be in the top three again, even if the gap from Kimi is quite big," he said. "I was fourth fastest in the morning practice and I wasn't sure I could do as well in qualifying because the track conditions seemed to have deteriorated. But there you go!"
Williams was on the pace, Webber finishing third and Heidfeld sixth, with Fisichella and Montoya, penalty aside, consolidating Renault and McLaren's pace with fourth and fifth respectively. Trulli and Coulthard made up the top eight, while Ferrari struggled with Barrichello and Michael 10th and 11th.
Villenueve, ninth, outqualified Massa but everyone from the Canadian to Massa in 12th was over two seconds off the pace of the front runners. A good race is in prospect but anything can happen at Monaco. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Alonso, Webber, Fisichella, Montoya, Heidfeld, Trulli, Coulthard.