Michael Schumacher stormed to pole position in qualifying for the German Grand Prix, setting a blistering 1:13.306 in front of his home crowd. His final sector was unbeatable and although others came close, they just couldn't match the Ferrari.
Michael Schumacher stormed to pole position in qualifying for the German Grand Prix, setting a blistering 1:13.306 in front of his home crowd. His final sector was unbeatable and although others came close, they just couldn't match the Ferrari. Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya was three and a half tenths down for second and BAR's Jenson Button took third. However, Button will lose ten places on the grid due to having an engine change yesterday.
After Jordan's Timo Glock and Giorgio Pantano, and Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner all lost their front wings on the kerb at turn one in practices, the race organisers decided to remove the bollard from the corner for qualifying. Conditions were dry and cooler than Friday, with a track temperature of around 36 degrees at the start of pre-qualifying.
Schumacher started proceedings and the Ferrari clocked a good 1:14.042, which was better than his times in the earlier practices. Kimi Raikkonen continued his form, the McLaren taking provisional pole with 1:13.832, two tenths up. Rubens Barrichello couldn't better either his teammate or Raikkonen and posted third.
Button, fastest man in the last practice, had a very quick middle sector and took provisional pole, 1:13.535 and three tenths up on Raikkonen. Last year's Hockenheim winner Montoya was up next and also had a very good middle sector to take over from Button by a tenth and a half, 1:13.391 for the Williams.
Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Sauber and beat both Ferraris to take fourth, a good start for the Italian. David Coulthard had a scorching first sector but dropped off slightly towards the end of the lap and the McLaren clocked third, ahead of teammate Raikkonen. Jaguar's Mark Webber had a poor lap for eighth, 1.7 seconds off the pace.
Felipe Massa put in a good effort in the second Sauber to post fifth ahead of teammate Fisichella. Fernando Alonso was the first Renault and was fractionally up on Montoya through sector one, and in two, but lost out at the end to take third, a tenth and a half off. BAR's Takuma Sato, who crashed in the last practice, was off the pace and posted 10th, over a second down.
Cristiano da Matta was also some way off provisional pole, the Toyota just behind Webber's Jaguar for 12th. Christian Klien was on a similar pace but just got ahead of teammate Webber for 11th. Jordan's Nick Heidfeld was over three seconds off the top time for 14th and Gianmaria Bruni's Minardi, unsurprisingly, was about a second slower, 15th.
The second Jordan of Giorgio Pantano was a slight improvement, 14th and 2.7 seconds off the pace. Jarno Trulli's Renault was slightly down on the front runners but managed fifth, three and a half tenths off Montoya. Zsolt Baumgartner posted 18th in the second Minardi, which left two to run.
Olivier Panis was on the pace and the new Toyota TF104B clocked fifth, a much more encouraging result than previously in the weekend. Antonio Pizzonia was the last out and really belted the Williams, a cracking lap for second fastest and only three hundredths down on Montoya. The top three after pre-qualifying was Montoya, Pizzonia, Button -- an interesting session but how would the second one play out?
Track temperature was up to forty degrees as Baumgartner kicked off final qualifying, followed by Bruni, the pair of Minardis setting times in the 1:18 bracket. Heidfeld was faster, as expected, and posted 1:16.310, 1.7 seconds up. Teammate Pantano was quicker again, by just over a tenth, 1:16.192. Da Matta dropped the time again, 1:15.454, seven tenths quicker.
Webber demoted the Toyota with a 1:14.802 and Klien took second, just two tenths down on his teammate after a small error early in the lap. Sato was comfortably faster by half a second, taking provisional pole with a 1:14.287. Barrichello went a little wide at the apex of the hairpin and scraped past Sato by nine thousandths of a second, 1:14.278.
Schumacher probably couldn't hear his engine for the noise of the airhorns but set an absolutely scorching 1:13.306 for provisional pole. An excellent lap and definitely not a time that would be easily beaten. Fisichella took sixth behind the Jaguars and teammate Massa landed eighth -- Sauber tend to run heavy for a long first race stint, so that was not bad for the pair.
Raikkonen was on Schumacher's pace but couldn't match him in the last sector and the Finn posted second, just under four tenths down on the Ferrari. Trulli was eight tenths off provisional pole for third and Panis took sixth, just over a second down on Schumacher. Coulthard was up on the Ferrari in sectors one and two but could he match him in the last? No, he lost half a second to Schumacher by the end and posted third, behind Raikkonen.
Alonso set the fastest middle sector so far but that final sector was again the stumbling block and he clocked fourth, fractionally behind Coulthard. Button was better, taking second, but he will drop ten places due to his engine change yesterday. Pizzonia was the penultimate runner and had a bit of a scrappy lap after his earlier effort, only managing 10th. Montoya was bang on the pace but couldn't quite squeeze enough out of the Williams, taking second by a deficit of three tenths to Schumacher.
"It's the right time to do it, in front of my home crowd. The way things have been going for us this weekend its very promising," said Schumacher. "Sectors two and three I just got perfectly together, sector one probably was not 100 percent but I think all of us can say we lost here and there a little bit of time."
Montoya was pleased to be on the front row: "I think it is nice to be back in front. The car, I think Williams and BMW have done a great job over the last couple of races, and I think since Magny-Cours there is a couple of new things and it is good to see the team back in good shape. It is a shame we couldn't have gone any faster. I think we have a very good race car, but we have to wait and see how it comes out tomorrow."
Button, naturally, was disappointed about his penalty after a good qualifying performance. "It's difficult because we have been very strong here on long runs and it is more our one-lap pace that we have had to work on," he said. "So it is disappointing that we are going back to 13th on the grid, but these things happen."
It was a close qualifying session, the top six finishing within half a second. Montoya, Button and Raikkonen, in second, third and fourth, were within hundredths of each other. Pizzonia was a bit disappointing and Barrichello's eighth was rather strange but there were no real surprises.
McLaren looked very strong and Renault also put in a good performance. The rest were pretty much as expected, the Jaguars just outside the top ten and the Saubers midfield. Toyota had mixed fortunes; Panis' 10th was reasonable but da Matta was down in 15th. Jordan and Minardi were the backmarkers, as usual.
Of course, with Button's demotion, everyone from Raikkonen to Klien will move up a place on tomorrow's starting grid. Final top eight classification before Button's penalty: Schumacher, Montoya, Button, Raikkonen, Coulthard, Alonso, Trulli, Barrichello.