Ferrari made it a scarlet front row for the start of the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix tomorrow, Michael Schumacher's pole time of 1:30.139 leading Rubens Barrichello at the end of Saturday's qualifying sessions. Despite a strong performance in ...
Ferrari made it a scarlet front row for the start of the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix tomorrow, Michael Schumacher's pole time of 1:30.139 leading Rubens Barrichello at the end of Saturday's qualifying sessions. Despite a strong performance in practices, Williams couldn't quite match the pace, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher qualifying third and fourth respectively. BAR's Takuma Sato and Jenson Button claimed the third row, while McLaren and Renault struggled.
Track temperature was up to 50 degrees as Michael Schumacher started proceedings in preliminary qualifying, in order from the results of the last race. The Ferrari clocked 1:30.751, a good time but the Williams and Button were in the 1:29 area in practice. Montoya was next up, taking half a second off Schumacher with a 1:30.247.
Fastest man in the morning practices, Button matched the speed through sector one but couldn't keep his earlier pace, going third. Barrichello was already three tenths off in sector one and posted fourth, just over a second down on Montoya. Jarno Trulli was the first Renault out and took third, the middle sector appearing to be where time was lost for everyone so far.
David Coulthard at least managed a flying lap, after his troubled practice sessions, for sixth in the McLaren and Fernando Alonso beat teammate Trulli to take third. Sauber's Felipe Massa was nearly two seconds down on provisional pole, eighth, and Cristiano da Matta went one better for Toyota with seventh on his flyer.
Christian Klien, who topped Jaguar teammate Mark Webber in practice, also bettered Massa, taking eighth on his run. The second Sauber of Giancarlo Fisichella was really on it, ahead of the McLaren and a Ferrari in sixth, just under a second off Montoya. Olivier Panis was even more determined, putting his Toyota third, just a couple of tenths behind Schumacher.
Giorgio Pantano was the first Jordan and Gianmaria Bruni the first Minardi, three and four seconds off the pace. Takuma Sato slotted into seventh behind Button, the BARs still looking in reasonable shape. Zsolt Baumgartner was even slower than teammate Bruni and Kimi Raikkonen finally got a chance to put in a flying lap. The McLaren man made the most of it and hurtled up to second, just a tenth down on Montoya.
Nick Heidfeld managed 15th for Jordan on his lap, but he had an engine change after practice yesterday and will drop ten places from his final qualifying position. That left Ralf Schumacher and Mark Webber to run. Ralf was bang on Montoya's pace through sector one and kept getting faster, taking provisional pole with a 1:29.968. Webber posted 14th, one place behind Jaguar teammate Klien, a disappointing result. The Williams duo were looking good after the first session and Raikkonen appeared much better.
Baumgartner kicked off the second, grid deciding session, followed by Bruni, the latter being the better of the Minardi duo, although still around four seconds off the pace of provisional pole in the first session. The pair of Jordans followed, Pantano hitting a bollard on his lap which didn't help. Heidfeld outpaced him with a 1:33.506.
Massa managed a more reasonable 1:32.536 to put the Sauber ahead by nearly a second. Webber was down on Massa in sector one and although he picked up a bit, he was just under a tenth off by the end, for second. Klien was better in the second Jaguar, taking provisional pole with a 1:32.332, outqualifying Webber for the first time.
Coulthard, unsurprisingly, was six tenths quicker than the previous runners, 1:31.719, but not a time that was likely to put him near the front of the grid by the end. Da Matta continued Toyota's flying pace from practice with a 1:31.717, two thousandths faster than Coulthard. Barrichello put his foot down and posted 1:30.530 to take the lead by over a second, fastest in all three sectors.
Fisichella slotted into fourth on his run, only fractionally off the pace of Coulthard and da Matta. Sato set the fastest second sector but was down two tenths over all on Barrichello, for second. BAR teammate Button slotted into third, Sato outqualifying him for the first time, although just a couple of hundredths between them. Trulli took fourth and teammate Alonso had a mess of a lap, going wide at turn one then off the track at the final turn to eventually post 13th. The Spaniard suffered from brake problems which the team will investigate.
Panis didn't improve on his impressive third in the first session but did manage a commendable fifth, Toyota having a very good day over all. Despite a slight mistake at the first corner, Michael Schumacher shaved three tenths off Barrichello's time to take provisional pole with a 1:30.139. McLaren opted out of a second timed lap for Raikkonen in light of his grid demotion penalty. Kimi would have been put back 10 places from his qualifying position due to an engine change yesterday, so McLaren decided to change his strategy.
Montoya took up the challenge, going fastest through sectors one and two, looking set for pole until he somehow managed to lose four tenths in the final sector. The Colombian had to settle for third and teammate Ralf couldn't match him, slotting into fourth for the final lap of the day.
It was a slightly disappointing result from Williams after the pace in the first session but did they load up with fuel for final qualifying? Michael made it three poles out of three but it is pretty close at the top. The champ made an error at the first corner on his pole lap but still managed to pull it back, which could indicate a light fuel load -- strategy will be interesting tomorrow. "I cannot say that it was my best lap, honestly," said Michael. "I think everyone struggled in some way or other, it's a very tricky circuit to get everything out of the car."
BAR is looking good, ahead of Renault and McLaren, while Toyota surely is in with a good chance for points tomorrow. Jaguar must be a little miffed to be mixing it with the Saubers and the rest were unremarkable. Final top eight: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Montoya, R. Schumacher, Sato, Button, Trulli, Panis.