MICHELIN AND WILLIAMS CLAIM PROVISIONAL POLE Pressure builds in title fight as Montoya outpaces Schumacher Juan Pablo Montoya has an affinity for Monza. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team star scored his first Formula One victory here in 2001 and last ...
MICHELIN AND WILLIAMS CLAIM PROVISIONAL POLE
Pressure builds in title fight as Montoya outpaces Schumacher
Juan Pablo Montoya has an affinity for Monza. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team star scored his first Formula One victory here in 2001 and last season set the fastest lap in grand prix history to claim pole position. Using Michelin tyres the Colombian confirmed that he will be a major force again this weekend with a searing 1m 20.656s lap that gave him provisional pole. The Ferraris of crowd favourites Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher were second and third.
Montoya's team-mate Ralf Schumacher has been passed fit to race after a spectacular test accident at Monza two weeks ago, but he compromised his qualifying lap by skating across the grass at the first chicane. He would have been fifth fastest but stewards disallowed his time for taking what was effectively a short cut. He was classified 19th because Minardi driver Jos Verstappen did not take part in the session at all.
Michelin's partner teams maintained their impressive run of F1 form by annexing seven of the top 10 positions. Cristiano da Matta was fourth for Toyota -- the best qualifying performance of his F1 career to date -- and set the session's fastest time through sector one. Title challenger Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes) was fifth, ahead of Mark Webber (Jaguar, sixth), Jarno Trulli (Renault, seventh), Fernando Alonso (Renault, eighth) and Olivier Panis (Toyota, 10th). Renault came to Monza on the crest of a wave in the wake of its dominant Hungarian GP performance, but the team accepts that it does not have the horsepower necessary to challenge for a repeat victory at a high-speed track such as Monza.
Remaining Michelin drivers David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) and Justin Wilson (Jaguar) were 14th and 15th respectively.
Jordan driver Ralph Firman will not take part in this weekend's race. Doctors have advised the Englishman to continue resting in the wake of his violent accident during practice for the Hungarian GP. Zsolt Baumgartner will once again take his place, but Firman should be fit to return to the cockpit later this month in Indianapolis.
JUAN STEP BEYOND -- MICHELIN ON TOP AGAIN
Michelin's tyres might have changed subtly since the previous race in Hungary -- but their level of performance hasn't. World championship contender Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) is bidding to maintain his 100 per cent pole position record at Monza and he set the pace in the Italian Grand Prix's opening qualifying session. The Colombian was one of seven Michelin drivers in the top 10, ahead of Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, fourth), Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes, fifth), Mark Webber (Jaguar, sixth), Jarno Trulli (Renault, seventh), Fernando Alonso (Renault, eighth) and Olivier Panis (Toyota, 10th).
DIFFERENT, BUT THE SAME
Michelin's F1 programme manager Pascal Vasselon was buoyed by today's qualifying performance. He said: "We made detail alterations to our tyres and we didn't expect this to make us any less competitive. I'm delighted that we were able to confirm as much today. It is a very satisfying result but it is no surprise to us."
NICELY IN TUNE
Michelin's five Formula One partners completed a comprehensive test programme at Monza shortly before the Italian GP -- and the Clermont-Ferrand company was not too worried about completing long runs during this morning's free practice session. Pascal Vasselon said: "We were able to do lots of endurance work during the recent test and don't have any worries about durability or consistency. Track conditions were very much as we expected today and this allowed our teams to focus on detail fine-tuning. We have brought three dry-weather tyre compounds to Monza -- and on today's evidence two are likely to be used in the race."