Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) will start from pole position. The world champion lapped in 1m 31.317s -- more than one second faster than last year's pole and 0.432s quicker than team-mate Rubens Barrichello. West Mclaren Mercedes drivers David ...
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) will start from pole position. The world champion lapped in 1m 31.317s -- more than one second faster than last year's pole and 0.432s quicker than team-mate Rubens Barrichello. West Mclaren Mercedes drivers David Coulthard and Kimi Räikkönen will start tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix from the second row after qualifying third and fourth respectively in a session that was delayed by one hour and 15 minutes following the Allan McNish's accident (Panasonic Toyota Racing).
McNish lost control at the 285km/h (175mph) 130R corner and his car slammed into the barriers with such force that he broke the guardrail before landing on the other side. Although badly shaken he was able to release himself from the wreck before being taken to the medical centre. "First of all, I fell fine" he said when he came back into the box. "I have had a check-up and my knee is sore, but I am confident of getting back into the car tomorrow morning. The best thing is to get back in the cockpit as soon as possible."
He set the 18th-fastest time prior to the accident. The session had to be interrupted for 75 minutes to allow officials to repair barrier damage.
Five Michelin drivers will line up in the top 10. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes, third) led the way from team-mate. "I'm happy with my performance, the car and our positions on the second row. We have improved our qualifying performance throughout the season. I'm optimistic for the race and am aiming for a podium finish.
Kimi Räikkönen achieved the fourth time ahead of the Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher (fifth), Juan Pablo Montoya (sixth) and Jenson Button (Renault, 10th). The Colombian was unhappy with his qualifying result: "A disappointing qualifying, no doult about it. It's a shame to start so far away on the grid. Unfortunately today I have equalled my worse qualifying position this year which I set in Australia." he said
Jarno Trulli (Renault, 11th) was best of the rest ahead of Mika Salo (Toyota, 13th), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, 14th), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, 17th), McNish, Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 19th) and Alex Yoong (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 20th). Irvine failed to complete his final run because of a spin.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier - Michelin Motorsport Director
You have five cars in the top 10 today and a couple of your partner teams are very well placed, but the result is perhaps not quite what you were expecting?
"We know very well that it is unrealistic to set too much store by what we see on Friday and Saturday morning, when we were fastest, but the only disappointment was that we were unable to find a little bit more time at the end of today's session. Our quickest cars all improved, but not by much, and we also lost one of our strongest runners because Eddie Irvine had a problem and did not complete the session. But for these factors we might have done better still."
Will we see both your harder, primary (A) tyre and the softer option (B) in the race?
"Both our compounds work very well here and teams have had to think long and hard about which to use, because there is not a lot to choose between them in terms of speed or durability. One has proved to be more popular than the other but both will feature in the race."
This is one of the more abrasive circuits F1 cars race on. Have you any concerns about tyre wear tomorrow?
"This is traditionally a two-stop race and despite high temperatures during the last two days we have had absolutely no problems with excessive wear or blistering."
How do you feel about your race prospects this weekend?
"Generally I am delighted with the way Michelin has finished the season, which is only our second back in F1, remember, because we have produced really fast, consistent and hard-wearing tyres for the last few events and I am confident we are making good progress."