Michael Schumacher finally took Ferrari's first pole position of the season in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix with a stunning time of 1:19.882. McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya was nine tenths behind in second and Jarno Trulli's Toyota was...
Michael Schumacher finally took Ferrari's first pole position of the season in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix with a stunning time of 1:19.882. McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya was nine tenths behind in second and Jarno Trulli's Toyota was less than a tenth behind Montoya for third. The gap between the top two raises some interesting questions about what strategies will play out on Sunday.
Kimi Raikkonen started the proceedings, due to his retirement in Germany, and despite running first the McLaren clocked a very quick 1:20.891. Mark Webber's Williams followed on and struggled; he was two and a half seconds down on Raikkonen. Robert Doornbos led out for Minardi and was a further couple of seconds off the McLaren.
Jordan's Tiago Monteiro did not do a flyer as he had an engine change this morning and will be at the back of the grid anyway. Teammate Narain Karthikeyan was a few tenths quicker than Doornbos but still over four seconds off the pace. Jacques Villeneuve was better, his Sauber just under two seconds behind Raikkonen for provisional second.
Trulli was the first Toyota out took provisional pole by just five hundredths of a second, 1:20.839, after a very good final sector. Minardi's Christijan Albers had a nice tidy lap to go a full second quicker than teammate Doornbos to slot into fifth. Takuma Sato put his BAR third, nine tenths off Trulli and Raikkonen.
The second Williams of Nick Heidfeld went one behind Sato but was well over a second up on teammate Webber. Either the track was drastically improving or the pair are surely on different strategies. Rubens Barrichello was first out for Ferrari and lost a couple of tenths on Trulli and Raikkonen in the last sector to clock third.
Red Bull's Christian Klien had a good lap to go ahead of Heidfeld for fifth and the second Sauber of Felipe Massa was three tenths up on teammate Villeneuve for seventh. David Coulthard couldn't match Klien and his Red Bull took the seventh spot off Massa. Ralf Schumacher's Toyota had a quick middle sector and went third behind Raikkonen.
Michael was up on Trulli in the first sector and the advantage was up to eight tenths through the middle. He crossed the line to take provisional pole by just about a second, 1:19.882 -- a stunning lap by Michael but was it true speed or a light fuel load? Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Renault and could only manage sixth.
Jenson Button couldn't match the Ferrari and lost quite a lot in the final sector to take the sixth slot from Fisichella. Montoya was the penultimate runner and his McLaren was nine tenths off Michael to take second. Renault's Fernando Alonso was last man out and went wide onto the dust at the last corner which put him sixth, a costly mistake.
So, Michael gained Ferrari's first pole position of the season with an excellent lap that appears to show the Scuderia has improved this weekend. However, we'll have to see how everyone's strategies play out -- that's not to detract from Michael's lap but with this qualifying system things are not usually as clear cut as they seem.
"I drove a good lap and I am delighted to be back here after suffering for so long," Michael commented. "I am happy to be on pole, happy that it is with this margin and also that we look in good shape for the race. This is good for Bridgestone, who have suffered with us and this result is an excellent return for the effort they have put in."
Montoya behaved himself and will line up alongside Michael and Raikkonen will start fourth, which is very good seeing as he was first to run. McLaren undoubtedly have the speed this weekend and Raikkonen will be happy to have Alonso behind him, but Montoya will be out for the win as well.
Montoya quickly knew pole was out of his reach. "It's good to be on the front row as my lap was not perfect," he said. "I had a bit of oversteer on the first corner and I already knew after the first couple of corners that I wouldn't catch Michael Schumacher. So for the rest of the lap I was a bit cautious and concentrated on a good clean lap and getting on the front row."
Toyota did a good job with Trulli third and Ralf fifth but a lot of drivers will be keen to get past Jarno at the start, as we've seen before a bit of a backlog can build up behind him on track. Renault is not on the pace it expected this weekend and BAR was not exactly speedy either, but a lot can happen over a race distance.
"We always knew this was going to be a tough session because I was going out so early after our problems in Hockenheim," Trulli remarked. "I also had a fuel system problem this morning so I didn't get a chance to try out the car on new tyres. That meant it was a bit of a guess for the balance on new tyres, but our car always goes well over one lap and I tried my best."
For the moment Michael is sitting pretty -- it's so difficult to overtake at the Hungaroring so pole position is exactly where you want to be. He has to be a good bet for the win if he can stay ahead at the start but that's something the rest will be eager to change. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Montoya, Trulli, Raikkonen, R. Schumacher, Alonso, Barrichello, Button.