"It was a good lap, a very good lap" crackled Fernando Alonso's radio this afternoon at the Nurburgring as the Spaniard learned from his race engineer Rod Nelson that he had secured his first pole position of the 2006 season for tomorrow's...
"It was a good lap, a very good lap" crackled Fernando Alonso's radio this afternoon at the Nurburgring as the Spaniard learned from his race engineer Rod Nelson that he had secured his first pole position of the 2006 season for tomorrow's European Grand Prix.
The championship leader's time of 1:28.819 in the final part of qualifying will mean he starts tomorrow's Grand Prix from the best possible position, ahead of the Ferraris of Schumacher and Massa.
In marked contrast, Giancarlo Fisichella's afternoon was thwarted by a fellow competitor, as he was delayed through the final part of his flying lap in the second knockout session. The incident cost the Italian several tenths of a second in lap-time, which would have been enough to put him into the third qualifying session.
Instead, he finished thirteenth and was knocked out. The only consolation is that the application of penalties to cars in front will see him start from eleventh position tomorrow, free to determine his fuel load for the opening stint.
Fernando Alonso, Pole position:
"I had a very good lap today. We tried something a little bit different with our approach to qualifying, and it seemed to work well, so I am really pleased to be on pole for the first time this year. At previous races we have had problems with traffic or the fuel load, but today everything went smoothly and that made it much easier for me."
"I am looking forward to the race now, because I think it will be a good one. The Ferraris look very competitive, so let's see what tomorrow afternoon brings."
Giancarlo Fisichella, 13th position (will start 11th):
"All I can say is that I am really angry -- as people probably saw from the TV this afternoon. For me, Villeneuve's behaviour was unacceptable. As drivers, we know that if you are on the out-lap, you give way to the guys coming past on their quick lap. But Villeneuve didn't move over, and held me up all the way through the final sector and I lost a lot of time."
"I had the pace to get into the final part of qualifying quite easily but instead, we have to make some compromises on our race strategy. Hopefully, though, I can make up positions tomorrow."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering:
"It is great to be on pole position again, and particularly in the knowledge that we have an excellent race tyre and a sound strategy. Fernando used two sets of tyres for the final part of qualifying, and if his first lap was impressive, the second was stunning. We are expecting strong competition tomorrow, but it is shaping up to be a great race."
"As for Giancarlo, he was unfortunate not to get through to the final part of qualifying, because he certainly had the pace to do so. However, an incident with Villeneuve in Q2 ruined his chances. Nevertheless, he will start 11th after penalties have been applied, with a free fuel load."
"Bearing in mind his great performance after starting from the pit-lane at this circuit last year [NB: 6th position], I am sure we can work something out to help him gain some positions.
Denis Chevrier, Head of Trackside Engine Operations:
"Fernando's pole position this afternoon is the best possible start to the weekend. We came here knowing a good grid position was important, and an exceptional lap from Fernando gave us just that."
"Giancarlo was frustrated to miss out on the final part of qualifying once again, particularly as he knew he had the performance today and because we had taken a more aggressive approach."
"However, in such a close field, the slightest incident can cost four or five positions, and that's exactly what happened. In terms of the two engines, everything ran smoothly once again, and the B specification unit is performing in line with our expectations.