FLYING TRULLI TAKES PROVISIONAL POLE Michelin runners set pace at rain-hit Indy; Montoya quickest world title pretender Jarno Trulli might not figure in Formula One's three-way championship fight, but the RenaultF1-Michelin driver stole the ...
FLYING TRULLI TAKES PROVISIONAL POLE
Michelin runners set pace at rain-hit Indy; Montoya quickest world title pretender
Jarno Trulli might not figure in Formula One's three-way championship fight, but the RenaultF1-Michelin driver stole the headlines on the opening day of the United States Grand Prix meeting at Indianapolis with a pace-setting 1m 09.566s lap. The Italian has started from the front row of the grid four times in his Formula One career but is chasing a first pole position this weekend.
Trulli was 0.269s clear of the field -- and it was Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello who put up the stiffest challenge, rather than the Italian team's talismanic world champion Michael Schumacher. The German was only eighth fastest, sandwiched between world championship rivals Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin, fourth) and Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin, ninth).
Showers affected this morning's first free practice session, but although the circuit dried out before the start of qualifying it began to rain again halfway through the session -- and mild drizzle quickly turned into a deluge. Michelin runners didn't all enjoy the best of the conditions, but the French company's partner teams took seven of the top 10 positions.
Mark Webber (Jaguar) made the most of his car's ability to generate tyre temperature on a cool track to set third fastest time, ahead of Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, fourth), Montoya, David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes, sixth), Fernando Alonso (Renault, seventh) and Räikkönen. Having been forced to miss the recent Italian GP in the wake of a serious testing accident, Schumacher was back to peak form on his return to the frontline.
Of the remaining Michelin runners, Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, 11th) was one of the first to cope with the mild rain -- and team-mate Olivier Panis (14th) was first to be caught in the eye of the storm. Justin Wilson (Jaguar) also ran at the end of the session and the deteriorating conditions left him stranded in 18th position.
Dutchman Jos Verstappen was the only driver who failed to set a time. His Minardi developed a technical problem and he pulled into the pits at the end of his warm-up lap.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director
DELIGHTED STATES OF AMERICA -- MICHELIN SETS THE PACE
Michelin and its partner teams had the upper hand on the rain-hit opening day of the United States Grand Prix. Renault driver Jarno Trulli took provisional pole position and was quickest of seven Michelin drivers in the top 10. The Italian was also fastest in this morning's free practice and he qualified ahead of Rubens Barrichello then Mark Webber (Jaguar, third), Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, fourth), Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, fifth -- and fastest of the three world championship contenders), David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes, sixth), Fernando Alonso (Renault, seventh), Michaël Schumacher (Ferrari, eight) and Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes, ninth).
The remaining Michelin drivers ran in the rain and had to cope with deteriorating track conditions. Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "It is always satisfying to set the fastest time, but it has been very difficult to draw any firm conclusions in today's variable conditions."
ON FORM -- AND INFORMED
Although intermittent showers have interfered with teams' preparations, Michelin was able to glean a valuable amount of information about its two dry-weather compounds. Pierre Dupasquier said: "We completed a number of long runs during this morning's test session and the dry part of free practice. From what we have seen so far, both types of dry-weather tyre should be usable in the race -- although we will be able to confirm as much tomorrow morning. The track was quite abrasive early on but appeared to become less so as more rubber was laid down. After this afternoon's heavy rain, however, we might be back to square one when practice resumes."
Two Michelin drivers -- Olivier Panis (Toyota) and Justin Wilson (Jaguar) -- had to cope with the worst of today's track conditions. Pierre Dupasquier said: "From our perspective it was encouraging to see that Olivier was nine tenths of a second faster than Jacques Villeneuve, one of our rivals, after they went out on shallow wet tyres in very similar conditions."