Ralf Schumacher on pole position for Japanese GP

Ralf Schumacher on pole position for Japanese GP

Toyota's Ralf Schumacher took pole position for the team's home race in Japan, his best a 1:46.106 in another session disrupted by rain. BAR's Jenson Button claimed second on the grid, just three and a half hundredths behind Ralf, and Renault's ...

Toyota's Ralf Schumacher took pole position for the team's home race in Japan, his best a 1:46.106 in another session disrupted by rain. BAR's Jenson Button claimed second on the grid, just three and a half hundredths behind Ralf, and Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella took third.

Ralf Schumacher.
Photo by Toyota Racing.

The track was still damp but it had stopped raining as David Coulthard's Red Bull kicked off the session with a 1:46.892. The Williams of Antonio Pizzonia couldn't beat him, two seconds off the pace. Minardi's Robert Doornbos was next and he lost a lot of time in the middle sector to finish six seconds down on provisional pole.

Mark Webber's Williams was an improvement, three and a half tenths off Coulthard to slot into second. Jordan's Tiago Monteiro spun into the gravel on his out lap and will start from the back -- no surprise there then. His teammate Narain Karthikeyan had a reasonable lap to go ahead of Pizzonia by a few tenths.

The Minardi of Christijan Albers went ahead of Doornbos, over two seconds faster than his teammate. Toyota's Jarno Trulli ran very wide in turn two and went off into the gravel to end his effort at the same place Monteiro did. Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve was out next and had a decent effort to clock third.

His teammate Felipe Massa followed on and slotted in eighth tenths behind Villeneuve for provisional fourth. The rain started to fall again as BAR's Takuma Sato took to the track and the local hero went to provisional pole with a 1:46.841, just half a tenth up on Coulthard.

Red Bull's Christian Klien had a stellar middle sector and took over from Sato, nearly four tenths quicker for 1:46.464. Ralf was next up and claimed provisional pole by a similar margin with a 1:46.106. Button also had a very fast middle sector and slotted into second, three and a half hundredths off Ralf.

The Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello was a second off the pace already in the first sector and finished eighth, over two seconds down. Fisichella, the fastest man in the rain-soaked final practice, took to the track to more pouring rain and clocked third, just under two second off provisional pole.

Michael Schumacher's Ferrari sported intermediate tyres but he only managed 14th, splitting the Minardis in the poor conditions. Renault's Fernando Alonso was on full wets for his flyer and was over two seconds off Ralf in sector one. He finished over eight seconds down for 16th.

Kimi Raikkonen was the penultimate runner and cruised around in the bad conditions to put the McLaren one behind Alonso, 16 seconds off pole. It hadly mattered due to his 10 place demotion penalty from an engine failure on Friday. Brazil winner Juan Pablo Montoya had a go but ended up aborting his lap and pulled his McLaren into the pits.

So a very watery end to Japan qualifying but Toyota was thrilled to have Ralf on pole: "It's obviously an incredible feeling to take my first pole position for Toyota, and what better place could there be to do it than here at Suzuka, the team's home track and my own personal favourite. I'd like to thank everyone in the team for helping to make it happen - both here in Japan and back at the factory in the Cologne."

Button alongside Ralf has to be threat but the BAR hasn't really shown stamina in the races. Button was happy enough: "It's fantastic to be on the front row of the grid for Honda's home race here at Suzuka," he said. "I'm very happy with the position, if not the lap itself. We were lucky with the weather as the rain came soon after my run."

Fisichella did well to claim third and an excellent result for Klien in fourth. More rain is forecast for the race so there's no point trying to predict anything, especially with the usual front runners at the back.

"I have been lucky but unlucky because when I was out for my qualifying lap it started raining quite heavily in the last part of the circuit," said Fisichella. "I was really confident because his morning after the second free practice I was the quickest and the car balance was really good, so I was confident to do well."

The traditional leaders in the latter half of this season -- Raikkonen, Montoya and Alonso -- will all be coming from the back of the grid. Damn, I'm excited already! Final top eight classification: R. Schumacher, Button, Fisichella, Klien, Sato, Coulthard, Webber, Villeneuve.

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