Japanese GP: Michelin Saturday qualifying notes

WEATHER HELPS BARRICHELLO SECURE POLE FOR FINALE Drizzle hits leading title contenders: Räikkönen starts eighth, Schumacher 14th Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello capitalised on a break with the weather during qualifying for the final race of...

Drizzle hits leading title contenders: Räikkönen starts eighth, Schumacher 14th

Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello capitalised on a break with the weather during qualifying for the final race of the Formula One season in Japan. The Brazilian was the last of the expected pace-setters to run before long-threatened rain took hold. That compromised his rivals' chances and the Brazilian ended up 0.699s clear of the field.Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, second) was quickest of eight Michelin drivers in the top ten.

Although rain was a contributing factor in Panasonic Toyota Racing's performance the whole team has worked hard and Cristiano da Matta scored the 3rd position. Olivier Panis will start Toyota's home race alongside his team-mate from 4th place.Da Matta said: "The conditions obviously played into out hands -- but I still think our car would have been good enough for the top eight, whatever the conditions."

The scene is set for a fascinating showdown as F1's twin title battles play out. Kimi Räikkönen, Michelin's contender in the drivers' championship, began his day destructively when he crashed at Turn Two in this morning's opening free practice. The McLaren-Mercedes star borrowed team-mate David Coulthard's chassis for the second practice session, while his own car was repaired, but it was drizzling by the time he took to the track to qualify: the Finn ended up eighth, six places clear of defending champion -- and current points leader -- Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), who had to cope with even heavier rain.

Räikkönen must win tomorrow to have any chance of the title -- but even that won't be enough if Schumacher grabs a place in the top eight. Kimi said: "The circuit was becoming wet when out so our time was the best we could do in those conditions. We will see what happens tomorrow when it becomes clear what strategy everybody is on and more importantly what the weather will do. We will do everything we can to make a good race and at least Michael is not on pole!"

Fernando Alonso (Renault, fifth), Mark Webber (Jaguar, sixth), Coulthard (seventh), Räikkönen and Justin Wilson (Jaguar, 10th -- his best starting position in F1) completed the Michelin armada at the front. Yesterday's pace-setters Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) and Jarno Trulli (Renault) will start at the back after abandoning their laps in the gathering rain.Schumacher Jnr proved the futility of attempting to attack when he spun at the final corner. "Everything was going so perfectly this weekend, even after this morning's session. I just had bad luck with the weather conditions in qualifying. I tried to make the best out of it, but it jut did not work out. We need point for the constructors' championship and I'll fight hard but that is the way it is today."

To secure the championship for constructors, the Williams-BMW drivers need to score four points more than their Ferrari counterparts tomorrow.

Crowd favourite Takuma Sato put in one of the day's most dramatic dry-weather laps -- but spectacle doesn't always equal speed. The former Jordan racer -- who finished fifth in this event last season -- will line up 13th in his first start for B*A*R-Honda. He has replaced Jacques Villeneuve, who last week decided not take part in F1's seasonal finale.

Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director

Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) spearheaded the Michelin challenge in the final qualifying session of the Formula One season. The Colombian starts tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix from second place on the grid and was fastest of eight Michelin cars in the top 10. Unsettled weather affected drivers who took to the track in the later part of the session. In gathering rain, yesterday's pace-setting Michelin stars Jarno Trulli (Renault) and Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) were forced to abandon their laps and must therefore start at the back of the grid. Michelin's world championship contender Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) qualified eighth, six places ahead of title rival Michael Schumacher.

Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier is extremely satisfied with the way the company's tyres have performed at Suzuka. He said: "This weekend's weather has shuffled the traditional grid order and conditions at the end of today's session turned the outcome into a bit of a lottery. Irrespective of the variable conditions, however, the pace of our partner teams has been a constant factor. Michelin cars have been to the fore in every session and if it stays dry tomorrow I expect to see two of our four available dry-weather compounds in action. It is conceivable, however, that we might need to introduce our new wet, which hasn't been run so far this weekend."

Michelin will win the world championship for drivers tomorrow if Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) wins the race and Michael Schumacher fails to score any points. It will win the constructors' title if Williams-BMW team-mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher score four more points than their Ferrari counterparts. Michelin has taken 109 of a possible 160 top-10 grid positions this season -- a 68.1 per cent share. Four drivers from three teams have collectively annexed eight pole positions for Michelin during the course of the season.


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , Toyota Racing , Jordan