Juan Pablo Montoya took pole position for the Italian Grand Prix with the fastest ever qualifying lap in the history of Formula One. Averaging 161mph, Montoya took Keke Rosberg's record with a lap right on the ragged edge that proved unbeatable.
Juan Pablo Montoya took pole position for the Italian Grand Prix with the fastest ever qualifying lap in the history of Formula One. Averaging 161mph, Montoya took Keke Rosberg's record with a lap right on the ragged edge that proved unbeatable. Although team mate Ralf Schumacher and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher both held pole position at one point, the Colombian's time of 1.20:264 made jaws drop all down the pit lane.
Monza is the fastest circuit on the F1 calendar and since it's opening in 1922 it has hosted 51 Grands Prix, more than any other track. Both Ferrari and Williams were running new qualifying spec engines and the times at the top were very close. Montoya took the early pole position from McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, followed by Michael with a 1:21.016. The current champion improved his time but then was over taken by Ralf with a flyer of 1:20.542, so close to the record but not quite there.
Montoya's record breaking effort was amazing and although Michael, Ralf and Barrichello all tried again, it wasn't enough. McLaren were never really in the fight; Raikkonen managed a respectable enough fifth[*] while David Coulthard was relegated to seventh by the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine. While the fight at the front was the focus of qualifying, Jaguar put in a great performance, both cars always in the top ten and Pedro de la Rosa finished eighth.
Jacques Villeneuve was the other improvement of the day, as high as sixth at one point he eventually finished ninth which was better than BARs performance so far this weekend. Olivier Panis, however, could not match the pace and was down in sixteenth. Rounding off the top ten was the Toyota of Mika Salo. Team mate Allan McNish was thirteenth, a good performance from Toyota given some of their previous qualifying efforts.
Jarno Trulli had the better of Jenson Button in the Renault team, eleventh to the Englishman's lowly seventeenth. Renault have slipped from their performances earlier in the year although in the races they seem to manage to get in the action. Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella outqualified Taluma Sato by finishing twelfth. Sato was running in eighteenth when a crash with Raikkonen sent them both off.
Sato was on a flying lap and Raikkonen on an out lap when the Finn apparently didn't see Sato coming up behind him and pulled into his path. The Jordan hit the rear of the McLaren and the front suspension broke, sending Sato flying across the gravel at the second chicane and into the tyre barrier. Raikkonen just managed to hold on to his car and also ended in the gravel. A nasty situation which could have been much worse but luckily both escaped without injury.
Sauber had an inexplicably poor session to compound its generally off the pace weekend. Felipe Massa had the upper hand in fourteenth from Nick Heidfeld just behind. Minardi had Mark Webber and Alex Yoong in nineteenth and twentieth respectively. Yoong had showed well in practices but qualifying saw him drop over a second behind Webber and nearly five seconds off Montoya's pole time.
An exciting session at the front -- Michael is probably happy with being on the front row if not pole, as Ferrari have smaller fuel tanks than Williams. If both Williams had made the front row they would have had the advantage of a one stop race tomorrow whereas Ferrari may have to opt to a two-stopper. Barrichello suffered a blown engine in the morning's practice and had brake problems yesterday but Michael was undisturbed by gremlins.
Qualifying was red flagged just before the end due to the crash between Raikkonen and Sato and although nearly everyone piled out for a last attempt when it was restarted, there were no improvements. Final top six classification: Montoya, M. Schumacher, R. Schumacher, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Irvine.
[*]Editor's note: Raikkonen was later penalized by the stewards for the incident with Sato and lost his fastest time. He will now start from sixth on the grid, Irvine from fifth.