European GP: Michelin Saturday qualifying notes

FIRST F1 POLE FOR RÄIKKÖNEN Bibendum on top -- Michelin cars take nine of the top 11 places Finn Kimi Räikkönen obtained the first pole position of his Formula One career with a searing lap at the Nürburgring today. The last man on track...

Bibendum on top -- Michelin cars take nine of the top 11 places

Finn Kimi Räikkönen obtained the first pole position of his Formula One career with a searing lap at the Nürburgring today. The last man on track for the final one-shot qualifying session, the Michelin-shod McLaren-Mercedes driver pipped world champion Michael Schumacher by just 0.032 seconds in one of the closest battles of the season so far. Räikkönen said: "It has been a very good weekend for me so far. The balance wasn't quite right in this morning's free practice but the team has given me a perfect car for qualifying on both days."

Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were in the thick of the fight, too, as just 0.25 seconds covered the top five drivers. They set identical times to the thousandth of a second on the first sector of the track, but Schumacher Jnr was fractionally faster over the full lap and they will line up third and fourth respectively.

Of the other Michelin runners, Jarno Trulli (Renault, sixth) performed immaculately to outqualify team-mate Fernando Alonso (eighth) for the fourth time this season. Toyota drivers Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta have been quick all weekend. The Nürburgring is less than an hour by road from the team's Cologne base and they have looked very much at home. Panis was fastest in both free practice sessions and he put together a neat lap this afternoon to annexe seventh on the grid, 0.599 seconds and three places ahead of his team-mate. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) made a couple of small mistakes in the first part of his lap and has to settle for ninth.

Mark Webber (11th) spearheaded the Jaguar challenge -- despite having missed much of this morning's final free practice session when he spun and stalled at Turn 15, the Coca Cola-Kurve. Team-mate Antonio Pizzonia was 16th.

Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director

Michelin underlined the performance edge it has shown throughout the first two days of the Grand Prix of Europe meeting when Kimi Räikkönen obtained partner team McLaren-Mercedes' first pole position of the season. It was also a career first for the Finn and Michelin's third in succession. Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "Our experience this season has taught us not to set too much store by pole position, because slight variations in strategy can produce a different outcome during the race, but it was very satisfying to see Kimi set the fastest time today. Our tyres have proved extremely well suited to this weekend's track conditions and our five partner teams confirmed as much today."

Michelin teams will dominate the front of the grid tomorrow. In addition to Räikkönen, Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, third), Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, fourth), Jarno Trulli (Renault, sixth), Olivier Panis (Toyota, seventh), Fernando Alonso (Renault, eighth), David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes, ninth) and Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, 10th) will all line up on the first five rows -- with Jaguar driver Mark Webber next up.

Michelin's partners have chosen to race a selection of the five available dry-weather options that are available this weekend. Pierre Dupasquier said: "Several of our partners chosen to run the harder of our available tyres today -- which makes this performance all the more satisfying. No matter which tyre teams are running, however, I am sure they will be in good shape. This is a balanced track that places loads quite evenly across the tyres and, so far, we have seen nothing to concern us about the likely rate of wear in tomorrow's race."

Michelin all set for milestone 300th victory in premier-class motorcycle racingMichelin's domination of premier-class motorcycle racing is set to reach a landmark 300 Grand Prix victories at Assen this weekend. The renowned French tyre manufacturer has been winning GPs for three decades, its riders lifting 22 of the last 26 500 MotoGP World Championships.Yesterday, the qualifying session was super fast, the top 15 men inside last year's pole time and Capirossi clocking the first-ever sub-2-minute Assen lap. Michelin riders dominated, taking the top 16 places.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren , Williams