RÃ„IKKÃ–NEN AND BUTTON CLAIM TOP-THREE SLOTS FOR MICHELIN Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen (Team McLaren Mercedes) will spearhead the Michelin challenge in tomorrow's inaugural Chinese Grand Prix. The Finn qualified second, a fraction behind pole position man...
RÄIKKÖNEN AND BUTTON CLAIM TOP-THREE SLOTS FOR MICHELIN
Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) will spearhead the Michelin challenge in tomorrow's inaugural Chinese Grand Prix. The Finn qualified second, a fraction behind pole position man Rubens Barrichello. Jenson Button (B.A.R-Honda/Michelin) maintained his impressive run of form by posting the third fastest time. Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin) will start fifth on his return to F1 after a three-month injury layoff.
All six of Michelin's partners have cars in the top 12. Fernando Alonso (Renault) was sixth ahead of Olivier Panis (Toyota, eighth), Takuma Sato (B•A•R-Honda, ninth), David Coulthard (Team McLaren Mercedes, 10th), Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, 11th) and Mark Webber (Jaguar Racing, 12th). Sato will be relegated 10 places on the grid after an enforced engine change yesterday.
Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve (Renault/Michelin) qualified 13th on his grand prix comeback. Reigning world champion Michael Schumacher will start at the back of the field after spinning at the start of his qualifying lap. Minardi driver Gianmaria Bruni failed to register a qualifying time. He aborted his lap after spinning at Turn 3.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"The track hasn't evolved quite as we expected. It offered less grip this morning than it did at the end of Friday's two sessions, but conditions gradually stabilised and qualifying times were pretty much in the range we had anticipated."
"It remains to be seen what kind of fuel loads drivers were running with, of course, and at Shanghai that is an even more significant factor than usual. Every extra 10 kilos of fuel costs more than four tenths -- there is a greater weight penalty here than at any other circuit."
"Technically, this new track presents a fascinating challenge. Some parts of the track are so tight that they ideally require a Monaco-style set-up, but you can't put on too much wing because you don't want to compromise speed down the long straight between Turns 13 and 14."
"Our partner teams have all chosen to use the same tyre compound in tomorrow's race, assuming it stays dry. We have taken a slightly conservative approach and thought it might be a slight handicap in qualifying, although things have actually worked out pretty well. The tyre has delivered great speed and consistency and we have had some excellent results during long runs in free practice. That should put us in good shape tomorrow."