BUTTON AND ALONSO SPEARHEAD MICHELIN CHALLENGE Jenson Button (Honda, third) and world champion Fernando Alonso (Renault, fourth) will lead the Michelin challenge in the season-opening Bahraini Grand Prix, following the first running of the...
BUTTON AND ALONSO SPEARHEAD MICHELIN CHALLENGE
Jenson Button (Honda, third) and world champion Fernando Alonso (Renault, fourth) will lead the Michelin challenge in the season-opening Bahraini Grand Prix, following the first running of the sport's ground-breaking, knockout-style qualifying system.
Seven Michelin drivers - representing five of the company's six partner teams - made it into the final top-10 shoot-out. Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren Mercedes) will start the race fifth, ahead of Rubens Barrichello (Honda, sixth), Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing, eighth), Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault, ninth) and Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber, 10th).
This morning's final free practice session began slowly - the Bahraini track was covered in a layer of sand after strong winds blew across the adjacent desert. Jenson Button (Honda/Michelin) eventually set the pace - but he Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and world champion Fernando Alonso (Renault/Michelin) were covered by little more than one tenth of a second.
An electrical problem has been pinpointed as the reason for McLaren/Michelin driver Kimi Räikkönen's failure to complete yesterday's second free practice session. Räikkönen was eliminated during the first segment of today's inaugural knock-out qualifying system. He spun off when his car suffered a rear suspension failure and spread debris all across the track.
The session was red-flagged with four and a half of the 15 minutes remaining - at which stage 12 drivers, including world champion Fernando Alonso, had yet to set a time. Every driver bar Räikkönen eventually completed a lap. Alonso was quickest, on 1m 32.483s, while Räikkönen, Christijan Albers (MF1), Tiago Monteiro (MF1), Yuji Ide (Super Aguri) and Takuma Sato (Super Aguri) were the first six drivers to be eliminated.
Jacques Villeneuve (BMW Sauber/Michelin), Nico Rosberg (Williams), David Coulthard (Red Bull/Michelin), Jarno Trulli (Toyota), Vitantonio Liuzzi (Toro Rosso/Michelin) and Scott Speed (Toro Rosso/Michelin) stumbled during the second knock-out qualifying segment of the qualifying session.
Nick Shorrock, Michelin Formula One director:
"For a first run-out, I think the new qualifying system proved to be very interesting - and teams clearly need to be on their toes, as we saw in the first segment, because unexpected incidents can impact on strategies."
"The track was dirty and very slow to begin with, because of all the sand that has blown across, but conditions improved throughout the session. Our partner teams will use six different types of tyre in the race and I am very satisfied with the way all our products performed."
"The weather has been a little cooler than originally anticipated, which has made it tricky to get the absolute best from the rubber, but I think we'll be strong in the race and I'm eager to see how the final part of the weekend unravels. Our partners have worked extremely hard throughout the winter and it is rewarding to see that several of them look to be in extremely competitive shape."
Nick Fry, chief executive officer, Honda Racing F1 Team:
"We benefit from a fantastic collaboration with Michelin and have come to this race extremely well prepared. We ran very strongly yesterday, when Anthony Davidson posted the fastest time, and were quick again this morning, when Jenson Button set the pace."
"I think the latest qualifying system is fantastic - it tested teams' nerves at every stage. Even if it is slightly disappointing not to have made the front row, it's only tomorrow that we'll find out who really is the fastest and I think we are in a very good position."