Schumacher on pole position for Monaco GP

Michael Schumacher claimed pole position in qualifying for the Monaco Graand Prix, despite his Ferrari coming to a halt at Rascasse on his final lap. Some controversially claimed that the German had done it on purpose to hamper other drivers but Schumacher's previous lap of 1:13.898 was enough for pole. Renault's Fernando Alonso was second and Mark Webber an excellent third for Williams.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Conditions were warm and sunny, with a track temperature in the mid forties at the start of the first 15 minute session. Finding clear space for a hot lap was going to be a more of a problem than usual on Monte Carlo's street circuit. The BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve were quick to take to the track.

Renault's Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen were also out early, along with the Williams duo of Webber and Nico Rosberg. Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi was up there with the big teams, and Red Bull's David Coulthard and Christian Klien.

Liuzzi clocked 1:17.146 for the first time on the board, with Villeneuve and Super Aguri's Franck Montagny. Alonso took over at the front and Coulthard slotted into second, then Jenson Button's Honda and Jarno Trulli's Toyota were next to the top in quick succession.

Felipe Massa stuck his Ferrari in the barriers in Casino Square and the red flag came out briefly. Meanwhile, Trulli was still top with Coulthard second and Ralf Schumacher's Toyota third. When the track went green there were seven minutes remaining and Michael was the only man to have not set a time.

Fisichella went to the top but was immediately eclipsed by Alonso, who was in turn replaced by Raikkonen. Webber was third and Montoya fourth, followed by Klien and Fisichella. Ralf then took fourth and Barrichello sneaked into the top ten as time ran out. Raikkonen remained at the top, 1:13.887, from Alonso and Webber.

There were no surprises in the first six to be dropped, starting with MF1's Christijan Albers in 17th and teammate Tiago Monteiro next in line, followed by Toro Rosso's Scott Speed, the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Montagy and the dented Ferrari of Massa. The times of the remaining 16 cars were cleared ready for the second 15 minute session.

The BMWs were again quick to get out on track, and the Renaults and McLarens. Heidfeld set the first time, 1:15.137, but Fisichella immediately took over, followed by Alonso and Raikkonen in quick succession. Coulthard took fourth and Montoya fifth, with Barrichello sixth.

Rosberg took over the fifth spot and both Toyotas were in the top ten, which was a vast improvement from the morning practice. Michael popped up into fourth, which pushed the Toyotas to the edge of the drop zone but Trulli bounced back for eighth. Coulthard put in a blinder for fourth but Button couldn't make the grade.

Heidfeld pulled off at Portier with a currently unknown problem right at the end of the session. Ralf in 11th was out, followed by Klien, Liuzzi -- good effort from the Toro Rosso man -- Button, Villeneuve and Heidfeld. Disappointing for BMW and Honda, although Barrichello just made it through to the last session in 10th.

With the times cleared and race fuel on board, the remaining ten set about burning off the excess weight. Alonso was the initial leader, with Fisichella and Raikkonen behind, then Michael took over at the top, followed by Montoya, who took the time down to the 1:15 bracket. Barrichello was the first to duck in for fresh tyres heading into the last ten minutes.

The McLarens followed suit, and the Renaults and Michael as they prepared for the final assault. Raikkonen set the first hot lap, in the 1:14 area, and Montoya slotted into second, then Michael clocked 1:13.898 to take the top spot. Alonso posted second, a tenth off, and Webber took third.

Time was ticking away and with three minutes to go it was the last chance to try for a hot lap. Raikkonen was on a real fast flyer, the best first sector of all but he lost time in the rest of the lap and only managed fourth. Michael too set a fastest first sector but went a bit wobbly at Rascasse and lost it, allegedly.

Despite that his previous time was quick enough for pole, the 1:13.898, and although Alonso was on a quick lap at the end the Spaniard had to settle for second, less than a tenth off the Ferrari. Webber was a superb third for Williams and it was a less demolition derby at Monaco than some had expected.

A good job by Michael but the tension in the post qualifying press conference was palpable and reportedly members of Renault went to the stewards to lodge a complaint about the German's actions. Hmm… Final top ten classification: M. Schumacher, Alonso, Webber, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Montoya, Barrichello, Trulli, Coulthard, Rosberg.