Ralf takes pole in Canadian GP qualifying thriller

Ralf takes pole in Canadian GP qualifying thriller

Qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix turned out to be quite a thriller as a real battle developed for the front of the grid. Ralf Schumacher triumphed over the challenges of BAR and Renault to take pole position, the Williams clocking 1:12.275...

Qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix turned out to be quite a thriller as a real battle developed for the front of the grid. Ralf Schumacher triumphed over the challenges of BAR and Renault to take pole position, the Williams clocking 1:12.275 and stealing it from Jenson Button by just six hundredths of a second. Ralf was on pole last year too and it just shows the difference; in 2003 his pole time was 1:15.529.

Ralf Schumacher.
Photo by Elmar Vat.

Button held provisional pole after smashing Michael Schumacher's best by over a second, then he had to wait as six other drivers set their flyers. Ralf was last man out and just edged Button out after being down on the BAR in the first two sectors of the lap. Renault's Jarno Trulli took third, with the second Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya fourth and Fernando Alonso fifth. The Ferraris were sixth and seventh.

Michael Schumacher got things under way in pre-qualifying with a 1:13.463, the Ferrari reasonably on the average pace of the morning practice sessions. Teammate Rubens Barrichello was three tenths down. Button was third to run and took provisional pole with a 1:13.333, just over a tenth up on the lead Ferrari.

Trulli, fastest man at the end of the practices, went better than Button after a flying third sector, 1:13.149, and Renault teammate Alonso topped it with a very good 1:12.826. Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Sauber out and beat Barrichello to slot into fifth.

Jaguar's Mark Webber was up next and was four tenths down by the middle sector, finishing seventh and nearly two seconds off Alonso's pace. Williams had been having a sluggish weekend but Montoya was up in the middle sector by eight hundredths and finished the same ahead, 1:12.746. The second Sauber of Felipe Massa slotted into eighth ahead of Webber.

Jordan's Nick Heidfeld was nearly three seconds off provisional pole but Olivier Panis was better, the Toyota taking eighth behind Barrichello. Christian Klien, who did well in practice, was 11th behind teammate Webber and by then only the top six were within a second. Gianmaria Bruni's Minardi coasted to a halt on his out lap and the yellow flags came out while the car was cleared. Teammate Zsolt Baumgartner was over five seconds off the pace.

Takuma Sato, tipped as a potential pole winner, was three tenths up on Montoya in the first sector but dropped back slightly, crossing the line to take third behind Alonso, two tenths off Montoya. David Coulthard started McLaren's pre-qualifying and slotted into fifth, for a good effort. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen couldn't quite match it, posting eighth just behind Michael.

Ralf was faster than Montoya through sector one, increasing again in two and finishing the job off well to put his Williams on provisional pole, 1:12.441. Toyota's Cristiano da Matta managed 12th, one ahead of Panis, and Timo Glock was the last to run. The German safely completed his first F1 pre-qualifying effort, putting the Jordan in behind teammate Heidfeld. A good effort from the Williams boys, at the top after the first session, but next was the one that really mattered.

The track temperature was up in the low forties as Bruni took to the track again but the Minardi ducked back into the pits at the end of its out lap -- the team obviously decided to rethink its strategy for tomorrow. Baumgartner then clocked 1:17.064 for the first official time of the final session. Glock was over seven tenths up to go ahead of the Minardi, a slightly untidy lap but reasonable in the circumstances. Teammate Heidfeld was over a second quicker, taking provisional pole with a 1:15.321.

Klien, unsurprisingly, took over the top by nearly eight tenths, 1:14.532, and Webber made it a temporary Jaguar front row by taking second -- Klien outdid his more experienced teammate for the second time this season. Not bad at all for his first time at Montreal, six tenths ahead of Webber. Massa didn't complete a second timed run, due to a puncture, and will join Bruni on the back of the grid.

Panis and da Matta traded second quickest, the latter staying ahead, three tenths down on Klien, then Barrichello demoted the Jaguar with a 1:13.562, nearly a second faster. Fisichella took third behind Klien and Raikkonen couldn't better the Ferrari, slotting into second -- but only three hundredths down. Michael, unsurprisingly, took provisional pole with a 1:13.355, but there was room for improvement.

Button trashed Michael's time, posting 1:12.341, over a second faster! Coulthard couldn't match it, taking fifth behind Raikkonen, after having a narrow brush with the wall at the last corner. That left five to go -- Sato, the Williams' and the Renaults. The tension was mounting in the pause before their group commenced with Trulli.

The Italian gave it a good shot but Button's time hadn't left much room and Trulli was six tenths down to take second ahead of Michael. Sato followed on but pushed too hard and spun at the final chicane. He completed a 360 turnaround and crossed the line in 14th. Alonso was almost a second off Button but managed third, demoting Michael another spot.

So to the Williams pair, who held the front row of the grid last year. Montoya had a bit of a scrappy lap, locking up at the hairpin, but he took third from Alonso and Ralf was the last to go. And he surely did go! Down on Button by a tenth in the first two sectors, Ralf let rip through the last and clinched pole position by six hundredths of a second! Fantastic stuff, 1:12.275, the fastest time of the weekend.

"Being on pole, you are always confident you will have a good race," said a rather cautious Ralf. "But we have clearly been struggling for the last three or four races, so it's going to be a tough one, and with Jenson on my tail it's going to be even tougher."

Trulli was fairly happy with his third place: "I had a good lap, but couldn't repeat my time from this morning," said the Italian. "I think the hotter track conditions may have had something to do with it, and I think we will see some variation in strategies tomorrow. However, third is a good result, and the car has been competitive on the longer runs."

Button may have been pipped to the pole but he was pleased nonetheless. "I'm very pleased with my lap and a front row grid slot. Not as pleased as if I'd held on to pole but I'll settle for second. I lost a bit of time in the hairpin because I went a bit deep and locked up the front right. There are a couple more tenths in the car yet so to be a full second ahead of Michael is fantastic; a bit strange but great nonetheless."

Now it all comes down to strategy, although the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve does present one or two good overtaking opportunities. Ferrari is presumably running heavy for a longer first stint in the race, so as always that first pit stop will be crucial. Renault, BAR and Williams seem fairly evenly matched so we should be in for a good race tomorrow.

McLaren may be fueled up but probably just didn't have the pace to match the others, but both drivers in the top ten is an improvement. A worthy mention to Christian Klien for ending tenth, an applause worthy effort from the young Austrian. Fisichella in 11th was not too bad for Sauber but Toyota was disappointing. Final top eight classification: R. Schumacher, Button, Trulli, Montoya, Alonso, M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Raikkonen.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan