Motorsport.com - World Champion Michael Schumacher heavily dominated Saturday's qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix to take pole. His time of 1:32.484 was a full seven tenths faster than nearest and increasingly familiar rival Juan...
Motorsport.com - World Champion Michael Schumacher heavily dominated Saturday's qualifying session for the Japanese Grand Prix to take pole. His time of 1:32.484 was a full seven tenths faster than nearest and increasingly familiar rival Juan Pablo Montoya. Top finisher in morning practice Ralf Schumacher, who appears to be battling his teammate more frequently than his brother, qualified in 3rd.
Unlike previous qualifying sessions where the drama occurred during the last 10 minutes, the action was constant as the front runners began attacking the circuit 20 minutes into the session. Malaysian driver Alex Yoong was the first man out of the pits after four minutes. Juan Montoya followed twenty minutes into the session setting a provisional pole time 1:34.393 only to be eclipsed by Ralf Schumacher. Mika Hakkinen followed the trend by taking provisional pole 22 minutes into the session. Hakkinen's time was short-lived and Rubens Barrichello became the temporary pole sitter until his teammate came charging along, shaving a full six-tenths of Barrichello's best time.
Michael Schumacher was in perfect form throughout qualifying, setting the fastest lap 3 times in the session. Montoya's second place effort was remarkable considering it was the first time he has competed at Suzuka. Schumacher was clearly faster than Montoya in the first sector of the track while Montoya had the edge on the second sector. Schumacher's teammate Rubens Barrichello was 4th fastest ahead of U.S. Grand Prix winner Mika Hakkinen.
While Michelin runners will occupy 2nd and 3rd place on the grid for tomorrow, they were clearly not the dominant force in qualifying as in Friday's Free Practice. Jean Alesi, who headed the time sheets in yesterday's practice, could qualify no better than 11th, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished a disappointing 15th.
Unlike yesterday's practice which witnessed heavy accidents by both Thomas Enge and Nick Heidfeld, Saturday's qualifying was tidy and without an incident of any kind.
A continual improvement by Bennetton was apparent as both cars qualified in the top 10, with Giancarlo Fisichella in 6th and Jenson Button in 9th. BAR improved marginally from the disastrous weekend two weeks ago at the U.S. Grand Prix as they finished the afternoon in 14th and 17th place.
While the Drivers' and the Constructors' Championship may have been decided weeks ago, success at Japan is still crucial for Ferrari. Rubens Barrichello will be seeking his second career victory in an attempt to move ahead of David Coulthard for second place in the Driver's Championship. For Barrichello to finish second in the standings he will need not only a victory tomorrow, but Coulthard will have to finish 5th or worse.