Ferrari carried through the pace of the morning's practice session to qualifying for the US Grand Prix and made it an all red front row at Indianapolis. Michael Schumacher clocked 1:10.832 for pole and Felipe Massa will line up alongside him in ...
Ferrari carried through the pace of the morning's practice session to qualifying for the US Grand Prix and made it an all red front row at Indianapolis. Michael Schumacher clocked 1:10.832 for pole and Felipe Massa will line up alongside him in second. Giancarlo Fisichella was the best of the rest and put his Renault third on the grid.
The weather continued to be hot and dry at Indianapolis with the track temperature already in to the fifties at the start of the first 15 minute session. The Williams of Mark Webber was the first car out on the circuit, followed by teammate Nico Rosberg, Toyota's Ralf Schumacher and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld.
Franck Montagny's Super Aguri joined them and Webber clocked the first time, 1:14.108. Ralf took over while Toyota teammate Jarno Trulli also appeared on track, followed by quite a few other cars. The Red Bulls of Christian Klien and David Coulthard were out, and the MF1s of Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro, the second Super Aguri of Takuma Sato and the Toro Rossos of Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi.
Albers was next to the top, 1:13.360, while the Honda of Jenson Button took third. Coulthard went fastest, and Honda's Rubens Barrichello slotted into second, then Monteiro was quickest with a 1:13.094. Speed snatched third and Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren eighth, while Klien was seventh and Trulli rounded out the top 10.
Speed moved up to second and Juan Pablo Montoya put his McLaren to the top, 1:12.477. Michael was flying on his first effort and went straight to the front of the list, 1:11.588. Teammate Massa followed on and went even better, half a second up. Fernando Alonso's Renault clocked fourth ahead of teammate Fisichella but was demoted by Jacques Villeneuve's BMW Sauber.
Heidfeld was up to third but was ousted by Ralf and Button made a late improvement to seventh. Trulli was out of the car even before the session finished and was obviously resigned to being dropped and Monteiro and Albers popped up into 11th and 12th, followed by Klien into 13th. It was a hectic first 15 minutes and at the end Massa stayed fastest, 1:11.088.
Coulthard led the first six to be dropped in 17th, along with Sato, Rosberg, Trulli, Liuzzi and Montagny. There's been a lot of talk about Klien losing his Red Bull seat but he's bettering Coulthard in qualifying recently. Liuzzi was also outdone by Speed for a change and while Trulli was way behind Ralf he had the excuse of a suspension gremlin that spoiled his chances.
The times were cleared for the second session and the remaining drivers got under way again -- both MF1s had made it through. Webber and the BMW Saubers were out first and Villeneuve clocked 1:12.391. Heidfeld took over and Ralf posted second, while Webber and Klien were fourth and fifth.
Alonso managed fifth and Fisichella went better for third, then Barrichello went fastest, 1:11.512. Raikkonen and Montoya were sixth and seventh and Alonso was already dropped to 10th. Michael and Massa were quite late runners and clocked first and second respectively, 1:10.636 for Michael.
With a few minutes to go Alonso was outside the top 10, as were the MF1s who were the last to get out on track. Villeneuve moved up to fifth, one behind teammate Heidfeld, then both were dropped by Ralf bouncing back to fourth. Alonso made a last gasp flyer and slotted into seventh and Fisichella took third.
Montoya missed the top 10 by two hundredths -- it was Raikkonen who took the 10th place so McLaren was not particularly speedy in that session. Behind Montoya came Webber, Speed, Albers, Monteiro and Klien. Alonso only just made it ninth while Michael remained fastest, followed by Massa and Fisichella.
The times were cleared again and with race fuel on board the last 10 set about burning off the excess weight. The Renaults led initially, followed by the Ferraris and Hondas, then Raikkonen and Ralf split them up with third and sixth respectively. Michael moved to the top of the times and Barrichello took second but it was too early for serious laps.
Ralf moved up to second but Heidfeld was in difficulty and the BMW came to a halt on the grass in the last sector, which was a shame as he'd been doing well. Button was next to take the second position then Barrichello went fastest but was immediately ousted by Michael. With under seven minutes to go the serious stuff started.
The Hondas, Fisichella and Villeneuve were first in for fresh tyres and the others weren't far behind. Alonso clocked the first fast time, 1:12.449, but Fisichella quickly took over, 1:12.1287. Button took third and Michael was next to the top, 1:10.832. Massa slotted into second and Raikkonen could only manage eighth.
In a last minute effort Barrichello demoted Alonso from fourth but nobody else could improve and Ferrari remained untouched at the top. Michael and Massa were super-quick in the morning practice so it's really no surprise to see them on the front row of the grid. But can they keep it going over the race distance on Sunday?
"What it with us?" Michael responded to a question about Ferrari's competitiveness at Indy over the years. "I mean that's probably the more right question because if we have -- we try always to maximize our opportunities and package, for whatever reason we were not able to do so in the last races."
"Here it just fits in relation to the other guys extremely well. What is the explanation for it? I don't know other than here straightaway we went out and had grip, and other races we didn't. So it's characteristic of little details which have big effects. I've been talking about those very often, and here is a little bit of proof of that."
Massa was happy to be on the front row. "I think that's very important for us," he said about Ferrari's one-two. "When you think about the temperature, it's still open, difficult but open, and we need to do everything we can to be in front of Renault. This race, we can be in the qualifying, hopefully tomorrow, as well."
Fisichella has outshone Alonso so far this weekend and his third was two places ahead of the defending champion. "Well, honestly, I'm quite happy because I did my best," said the Italian. "I did a good lap. It was a good car balance, but I was struggling just with the grip overall. So it wasn't easy to do better than this."
It was a reasonable effort from Honda, with Barrichello fourth and Button seventh but they too have been known to struggle over a race distance. Villeneuve kept up BMW's charge and will start sixth.
Ralf ended eighth ahead of Raikkonen -- McLaren looked to be lagging but, as always, it depends on fuel and strategy. Really the only ones who looked comfortable out there on the Indy circuit were Ferrari. Final top ten classification: M. Schumacher, Massa, Fisichella, Barrichello, Alonso, Villeneuve, Button, R. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Heidfeld.