Kimi Raikkonen finally claimed his first pole position of the season at the German Grand Prix, the McLaren man's best time a 1:14.070. The Finn was just under one and a half tenths faster than Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who will line up along...
Kimi Raikkonen finally claimed his first pole position of the season at the German Grand Prix, the McLaren man's best time a 1:14.070. The Finn was just under one and a half tenths faster than Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who will line up along side, and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa was third. Reigning champion Fernando Alonso could only manage seventh.
Conditions were good, with the track temperature in the mid forties at the start of the first 15 minute session. MF1's Christijan Albers and Toyota's Jarno Trulli will both suffer the 10 place grid demotion penalties for engine changes, Albers on Friday and Trulli this morning. Trulli, in the spare car, and teammate Ralf Schumacher were first out on the circuit.
The Williams duo of Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg followed on, then Super Aguri's Sakon Yamamoto in the spare SA05, as he whacked the new SA06 into the wall in the morning practice session. Ralf kicked off with a 1:17.037 with Rosberg, Webber and Trulli lining up behind. The MF1 of Tiago Monteiro and Toro Rosso's Scott Speed were next out.
Takuma Sato's Super Aguri joined them, and the Toro Rosso of Tonio Liuzzi, then MF1's Christijan Albers. However, the session was red flagged when Speed lost the Toro Rosso through the first corner and spun across the track to impact with the wall quite heavily. Speed appeared unharmed and was out of the car quickly.
"I had been riding that kerb all weekend with no problem, but then today in qualifying, I didn't do anything different in the way I tackled it, but the car seemed to get much more upset and I lost control of it," said the American. "At first, I kept my foot down on the throttle, because everything felt normal, but then I had a hard time bringing the car back into line and it spat me across to the outside."
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Christian Klien had appeared, and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld, but they had to go back to the pits and wait for the Toro Rosso to be cleared. The session restarted with 10 minutes remaining for the rest of the field to set a time and try to get through to the second phase.
The Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were quickly out, and the McLarens of Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa. Jacques Villeneuve's BMW Sauber followed on and Barrichello took the top spot, with Button in second. Liuzzi demoted Button and Raikkonen was next to go fastest. Coulthard took second but was ousted by teammate Klien.
De la Rosa posted fourth and the Ferraris of Michael and Massa were late to take to the track. De la Rosa improved to second and the Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso were last out. Villeneuve took fifth and Massa went fastest, down into the 1:14 bracket and Michael slotted in behind.
Alonso and Fisichella clocked fifth and eighth respectively and Button was a last minute improvement to 10th. Liuzzi in 17th led the first six to be dropped, along with Albers, Sato, Monteiro, Yamamoto and the unfortunate Speed. The two BMWs just scraped through in 15th and 16th. Massa stayed fastest, 1:14.412, with Michael second and Raikkonen third.
The times were cleared for the second 15 minutes and Webber led out. His first time was a quick 1:15.094 and teammate Rosberg took second. Villeneuve posted third and Heidfeld fourth, while Coulthard went to the top with a 1:14.949. Klien nabbed the third spot and Ralf went one better for second.
The Renaults came out fighting, Fisichella 1:14.747 and Alonso took third, but Button hurled the Honda around and clocked 1:14.378 and Barrichello followed him into second. Raikkonen was also scorching round and split the two Hondas, and the Ferraris were late to run. Massa went fastest then Michael broke the 1:14 barrier with a 1:13.778.
Trulli was the last man out and posted 13th. There was a last minute dash when Coulthard made seventh and Alonso sixth, then Ralf took the place off him. Fisichella went up to fifth right at the end and the BMWs and Williams lost out. Webber in 11th led the six to be dropped, along with Klien, Trulli, Villeneuve, Rosberg and Heidfeld.
Michael remained at the top with his 1:13.778 and Massa and Button were second and third. De la Rosa only just made it through and Webber missed out by less than a tenth. The final session is now 15 minutes as well and with the times cleared and race fuel on board the last 10 got ready for the pole shootout.
The Ferraris led out followed by the Renaults and the business of burning off fuel got under way. Button went quickest initially, 1:17.953, then Raikkonen undercut him by a couple of tenths. Ralf and Michael were next in line, then Alonso, Massa, Barrichello and de la Rosa. Coulthard and Fisichella rounded off the train of cars.
De la Rosa turned in on Ralf and they had contact, and de la Rosa spun to a halt with a right rear puncture. He managed to get going and both he and Ralf limped back to the pits -- Ralf appeared to have front damage and went into the garage while de la Rosa escaped with a tyre change. The Ferraris came in first for a tyre change ready for the last flying laps.
The rest did likewise and Michael dived out right in front of Alonso, which did not amuse the Spaniard. Raikkonen clocked 1:14.070 and Michael couldn't match him and neither could Massa, second and third respectively. Button went fourth and Fisichella fifth while de la Rosa had a bit of a fiery moment in the pits but continued.
There were a few near misses in the pit lane as everyone came back in for new tyres in the last couple of minutes. Raikkonen had an off track moment through the gravel but gathered it back together, although it lost him the chance to better his time. Alonso struggled to seventh and Raikkonen's first flyer kept him on a long-awaited pole position.
"It was great to get pole today as the car has been working really well all weekend," said the Finn. "We had some new developments at the test last week and it is clear that they have moved us in the right direction. Obviously today is only half the story, but I like this track, and we will have to see what happens in the race tomorrow."
Michael and Massa will line up second and third -- one has to imagine that Raikkonen is running quite light on fuel so it will be interesting to see how the strategies play out on Sunday. It was a poor day for Alonso -- not much of a 25th birthday present -- but if Raikkonen can take points off Michael it will be a slight compensation for Renault.
"We know we can count on a very strong car-engine-Bridgestone tyre which should give us a good race pace, so we can be confident for tomorrow," said Michael. "We had no problems at all and things have gone well all weekend. The track will still rubber in a bit more, especially as it rained yesterday."
Massa had hoped for a little more. "Third place is definitely not bad, but I felt I could have done better," the Brazilian commented. "I had expected to be fighting for pole, after the car felt very strong on old tyres in this morning's free practice. But at least the good pace I showed in race trim this morning means I can be optimistic for tomorrow."
Fisichella finished fifth -- did the lack of the mass dampers have an effect on Renault? Honda came good with Button fourth and Barrichello sixth while Ralf managed to get back out on track at the end to clock eighth. De la Rosa was nearly two seconds off Raikkonen's pace in ninth and Coulthard rounded off the top 10.
Despite Raikkonen being on pole Ferrari look to be the favourites in the race. No matter what happens on Sunday Alonso will still lead the standings going to Hungary, but by how much? Final top 10 classification: Raikkonen, M. Schumacher, Massa, Button, Fisichella, Barrichello, Alonso, R. Schumacher, de la Rosa, Coulthard.