ALONSO ON TOP AS MICHELIN TEAMS RETAIN THE UPPER HAND Michelin and its partners dominated the opening qualifying session for tomorrow& ...
ALONSO ON TOP AS MICHELIN TEAMS RETAIN THE UPPER HAND
Michelin and its partners dominated the opening qualifying session for tomorrows Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, second round of the Formula One world championship. Renault/Michelin star Fernando Alonso who became the sports youngest pole position winner when he qualified fastest at the same track in 2003 set the pace with a 1m 32.582s lap, less than one tenth of a second clear of Jarno Trulli (Toyota).
Six Michelin teams took a clean sweep of the top 11 positions. Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) was third, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes), Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), Mark Webber (BMW WilliamsF1 Team), Juan Pablo Montoya (Team McLaren Mercedes), Nick Heidfeld (BMW WilliamsF1 Team), Jenson Button (B·A·R-Honda), Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing).
B·A·R-Honda/Michelin driver Takuma Sato has withdrawn from this weekends Malaysian Grand Prix after developing a fever. The teams official reserve Anthony Davidson will take his place for the balance of the weekend.
This will be the Englishmans third Formula One start. He raced twice for Minardi in 2002, in Hungary and Belgium, and was 15th in the first qualifying session. Satos team-mate Jenson Button missed Saturday mornings fourth and final free practice session because of an engine problem.
World championship leader Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault/Michelin) caused the final free practice session to be red-flagged. The Italian left his front wing in the middle of the track after spinning into the Turn 12 gravel trap.
Jarno Trulli (Toyota/Michelin) set the fastest Saturday morning time his 1m 32.832s was slightly faster than Michael Schumachers pole position time in 2004s corresponding fixture. As with qualifying, the quickest 11 drivers in free practice were all on Michelin tyres.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
Everything that has happened so far this weekend suggests that Michelin is in very good shape for tomorrows race but we are aware that grand prix racing is a three-day process. Anything can happen after the starting lights go out and these are likely to be the hottest temperatures we have to deal with this season."
"It will be interesting to see how our tyres perform over 56 laps but we are approaching the race with a measure of confidence. It was very encouraging to see three of our partner teams grouped within 0.3s in the top four places today proof once more of Michelins ability to be competitive and versatile in equal measure.
Pat Symonds, executive director of engineering, Renault F1 Team:
Sepang is renowned as the first circuit of the season to put tyres under severe stress. That was especially so today, with 51-degree track temperatures. The tyres grip was impressive on their first flying lap and their consistency was even more so.