HONDA-POWERED DRIVER SECURES FIFTH ROW SPOT Villeneuve and Fisichella qualify in ninth and 12th place for Italian Grand Prix Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve qualified in ninth position for tomorrow's grid of the Italian Grand Prix...
HONDA-POWERED DRIVER SECURES FIFTH ROW SPOT
Villeneuve and Fisichella qualify in ninth and 12th place for Italian Grand Prix
Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve qualified in ninth position for tomorrow's grid of the Italian Grand Prix while Giancarlo Fisichella (DHL Jordan Honda) will start from 12th place. Olivier Panis (B.A.R Honda) and Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato will line up in 16th and 18th positions respectively.
B.A.R Honda's Olivier Panis was the first of the Honda-powered quartet to take to the track, twenty two minutes into the qualifying hour, joining the circuit as the majority of the field streamed out of the pits. His B.A.R Honda team-mate Jacques Villeneuve and the Jordan Honda pairing of Giancarlo Fisichella and Takuma Sato waited until almost half way through the session to launch their first qualifying attack at Monza.
Jacques Villeneuve set his best lap on his third of four outings, finishing the day as the fastest of the four Honda-powered drivers and the top Bridgestone runner after the two Ferraris. The B.A.R Honda driver chose to do two flying laps in succession on his first run and went on to set a best time of 1m22.126s, which was half a second faster than his initial timed lap, finally placing him in ninth position on the fifth row of the grid.
Giancarlo Fisichella, who also opted for a double timed-lap strategy, was the second of the Honda-powered foursome to take to the track for his first attack. The Italian driver set a best time of 1m22.515s on his third run, an improvement of half a second on his first flying lap, and will start from the sixth row of the grid in 12th position. With just over two minutes to go, Fisichella went out for his final attack to try to improve his grid position but the Italian was unable to do so and remained in 12th position.
Olivier Panis set his best time on his first flying lap of his final outing, placing the Frenchman 16th on the grid. The B.A.R Honda driver completed three runs, opting for two flying laps in succession on his last outing. Panis set a best time of 1m22.645s, an improvement of three tenths of a second on his initial timed lap.
Takuma Sato had a straight forward qualifying hour until three minutes from the end of the session when he had a coming together with McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen on his final run, resulting in both drivers spinning off into the gravel. Once the debris had been cleared from the track, the session restarted and eight drivers, including Fisichella, flooded out onto to the circuit for their final qualifying effort with just over two minutes to go. Sato set a best time of 1m23.166s on his third flying lap, placing the Japanese driver 18th on the grid.
Monza enjoyed hot and sunny weather conditions (21 degrees) as Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams) snatched pole position from Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, followed by Ralf Schumacher (Williams) and Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari). Jaguar's Eddie Irvine and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen complete the top six grid positions.
Following the session the FIA released a statement announcing that the Stewards of the Meeting have decided to impose a penalty to delete the fastest qualifying time of Kimi Raikkonen for causing a collision.
Shuhei Nakamoto Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development
"We have introduced a step up this weekend from the unit we ran in Spa and I'm pleased that the reliability has been good as Monza is notoriously tough on engines. We had two higher spec engines today, one of which was allocated to each team for qualifying - they were used by Jacques and Giancarlo. At Monza there are several good overtaking opportunities so we are hopeful of running competitively tomorrow and scoring some points."
Jacques Villeneuve Position: 9th
"After Ferrari, we are ahead of the other Bridgestone runners by a good margin so we're quite happy, considering the fact that we didn't get a good lap. I'm a little frustrated because we could have been 7th. There was a good three tenths left in the car but I made mistakes on the second run braking into Ascari and the last corner. Monza is a track where you think you can go faster but the moment you try, it's very easy to make a mistake because we're running such low downforce. The tyre was taking longer to 'come-in' so we did two timed laps on the second run and the better lap was the second of the two. That gives you one less run and less chances but it worked in our favour today. The engine seems to be more reliable so hopefully we can have a good race tomorrow but we need to improve our start to make sure we don't lose out into the first corner. Hopefully it will be possible to get a point tomorrow."
Giancarlo Fisichella Position: 12th
"That was tough, as I expected. Our strategy was to do two timed laps and we were a bit unlucky because I'm sure my best run was the second flying lap on the outing when the session was red-flagged. There was a possibility to be tenth but it wasn't easy and we are still struggling with grip. Tomorrow we should be better for the race but we need to find something more because the competition is so quick."
Olivier Panis Position: 16th
"Congratulations to Jacques for maximising the set-up of the car and the only latest specification engine that was available to the team this weekend. It is positive news for us looking ahead to the next two races as it looks like the performance advantage is very large. On the other hand, I would like to thank my team for doing the best job possible with the equipment they had available."
Takuma Sato Position: 18th
"That was the most difficult qualifying session of my career. There was a combination of factors; the car was not perfect and also I made a couple of mistakes and couldn't complete a whole flying lap. The final outing was my last chance and it was going to be three consecutive timed laps. On the third one, Kimi was on his way out from the pit and he took a wider line before turn 2. I was on the inside, following him in the slipstream, but at the braking point I moved out. He had plenty of time to look in the mirror and see me but obviously he didn't realise I was there. We tangled at high speed but luckily I managed to slow down a lot before I touched the tyre barrier. A big shame. I hope the race is exciting."