Michael Schumacher carried through his pace from the Saturday practices to take pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix with a time of 1:33.074, his 57th pole. Jaguar's Mark Webber took an excellent second on the grid, his best...
Michael Schumacher carried through his pace from the Saturday practices to take pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix with a time of 1:33.074, his 57th pole. Jaguar's Mark Webber took an excellent second on the grid, his best qualifying result to date, ahead of the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello. Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth for Williams and Kimi Raikkonen fifth in the McLaren.
Air temperature was around 35 degrees and track temperature edging on 50. As winner of the last race, Michael started proceedings in the first session, 1:33.865 and well on the earlier pace of practice. Barrichello was a few tenths down by sector two but caught up slightly to two and a half tenths under at the end of his lap. Fernando Alonso was the first Renault out and had a very fast last sector to take provisional pole with 1:33.193, over half a second up.
Ralf Schumacher was fourth on track and although he vied with Michael for fastest time in practice, he set fourth on his first qualifying run, 1.5 down on pole. Williams teammate Montoya, also very quick in practice, was behind Ralf by a couple of tenths on his flyer. Off the pace, or were the pair just conservative?
BAR's Jenson Button started the second group of five. He was down in sector one but overall it was enough to better both of the Williams for fourth. Jarno Trulli couldn't match teammate Alonso but slotted into second, only seven thousandths behind.
David Coulthard started McLaren's challenge and he too beat the Williams pair, as well as Button, to take fifth. Takuma Sato started and finished ninth in the second BAR and Giancarlo Fisichella closed the group. The Sauber man took eighth, ahead of Montoya.
Jaguar's rookie Christian Klien began the third group and took 11th for his first competitive lap of the Sepang circuit, 2.5 off pole. Cristiano da Matta, who had been in the gravel more than once prior to qualifying, kept the Toyota on track this time for 12th. Teammate Olivier Panis was a slight improvement, 11th.
Jordan rookie Giorgio Pantano didn't make it onto the track as mechanics worked on his car in the pit garage. Felipe Massa took his turn, the Sauber on the pace in the first sector but lost out in the last to take 11th. The final group started with Nick Heifeld, who got his Jordan out of the pits without trouble. The German managed 15th and was followed by Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni, who posted 16th. 5.5 seconds off pole.
Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen did not finish in Melbourne and were relegated to the back of the first qualifying session. Between them was the second Minardi of Zsolt Baumgartner. Webber put the Jaguar a very respectable fourth and Baumgartner took an unsurprising 18th. Raikkonen was up on Alonso's time in sector one, matched him in two but dropped a tenth or two in three -- good enough for third behind the Renaults and just 0.25 off.
Although the time for the start of the second qualifying was set at 14.00, it still only gave a short turnaround between sessions. Pantano was first out in the spare Jordan, a gearbox problem preventing his first run. Taking the spare car counted as an engine change but Pantano posted in the low 1:39 bracket, so the first demotion penalty for the engine rule infringement did not make a lot of difference.
Baumgartner started the reverse order line up of the first session, some half a second up on the Jordan, and teammate Bruni set a 1:38.577, seven tenths ahead. Heidfeld took another two seconds off the time, 1:36.569, and da Matta completed the first group with a provisional pole of 1:34.917 -- better, but still well off the expected time frame.
Klien was on da Matta's pace in the first two sectors but lost out in the third, slotting into second. Panis took third on his run and Massa went one better to second, just a tenth down on da Matta. Sato spun off into the gravel at turn 11, a bit of a let down for BAR. A brief red flag period allowed the car to be removed, then Montoya was the first of the big guns to go out. 1:34.054 provisional pole for the Colombian, but there was room for it to be bettered.
Fisichella had a bit of a moment at turn 14 but not enough to put him off fourth place, behind teammate Massa. Ralf was up on Montoya in sector one, equal in two but couldn't find enough in three: second, just under two tenths off. Button looked like he was going to beat Montoya but had to settle for taking second off Ralf, a couple of thousandths up. Coulthard went fourth and Barrichello rounded off the group with provisional pole of 1:33.756.
That left the last five to fight it out. Webber pulled out all the stops to beat Barrichello by just four thousandths, 1:33.715, a great effort by the Jaguar driver. Michael responded with a superb 1:33.074, over six tenths faster, and Raikkonen simply couldn't get close. A rather ragged lap for the Finn saw him fifth behind Montoya, although he did have a very good last sector.
Could the Renaults pull off another one-two on the grid as they did at Sepang last year? Trulli was off the pace straight away, which put paid to that happening. A disappointing eighth for the Italian, surprising after the effort in qualifying one. Alonso was the final runner, pushing hard in the first two sectors -- but he tried a bit too hard and ended up in the gravel at turn 14. A poor result for Renault after the earlier form.
Bridgestone obviously didn't suffer the heat as much as many thought, with Michael and Barrichello first and third, but a race distance is a different matter. A stellar performance from Webber, although the Williams pair were perhaps less than expected. Raikkonen looks hopeful for McLaren and Button for BAR -- it looks good for Ferrari tomorrow but will it be that easy? Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Webber, Barrichello, Montoya, Raikkonen, Button, R. Schumacher, Trulli.