Michael Schumacher blitzed the field by over half a second to take pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix, the Ferrari's time of 1:15.022 too good to beat. Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya was closest to Schumacher, six tenths down in second and ...
Michael Schumacher blitzed the field by over half a second to take pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix, the Ferrari's time of 1:15.022 too good to beat. Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya was closest to Schumacher, six tenths down in second and Takuma Sato flew the flag for BAR, third on the grid. Teammate Jenson Button made a mistake on his flyer and ended up 14th.
Conditions were fine and dry, track temperature around 38 degrees as Schumacher started preliminary proceedings. The Ferrari champion, leading the pack as winner of the last race, set a reasonable 1:16.320 despite a minor excursion over the grass. Button followed on and was a tenth up by the middle sector but a poor last sector saw him second fastest. Montoya was also quicker initially and carried it through to clock 1:15.574 for provisional pole -- seven tenths up on Schumacher.
Fernando Alonso was the first Renault on track and had a scrappy lap that put him fourth. Teammate Jarno Trulli followed on and did a better job, taking second with a deficit of half a second to Montoya. Rubens Barrichello was on the pace of the Williams in the first sector but the Ferrari dropped back in the middle to finish fifth. Ralf Schumacher was extremely quick at the start of his flyer, not bad in sector two but flagged at the end. He took second, narrowing the gap to teammate Montoya to four and a half tenths.
Kimi Raikkonen had a reasonable lap to put his McLaren fourth, better than both Ferraris. Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella pulled out a fantastic lap to take second, just under two tenths down on Montoya -- where did that come from! Teammate Felipe Massa did almost as well, only fractionally behind Fisichella to take third. Superb result for Sauber but could they carry it through to final qualifying?
Olivier Panis was the first Toyota and managed sixth, ahead of Raikkonen, but David Coulthard locked up through La Caixa and finished 10th. Mark Webber put his Jaguar a fairly good seventh but teammate Christian Klien couldn't match the Australian, 14th and over two seconds off provisional pole. Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner was down a second in the first sector and finished over six seconds off the pace. Fastest man in practice this morning was Takuma Sato but he wasn't as quick this time, posting tenth just ahead of BAR teammate Button.
Nick Heidfeld was very good in the first sector but the Jordan dropped off a lot and took 15th. Cristiano da Matta put his Toyota 14th and the second Minardi of Gianmaria Bruni slotted in front of Baumgartner. Last man out, Jordan's Giorgio Pantano, beat both Minardis for 19th. An interesting session, with the top 12 within a second of provisional pole.
Baumgartner was out first for the final session, followed by Bruni, the pair about three seconds off the expected pace. Pantano had a trip across the gravel but was still quicker than Baumgartner. Klien posted provisional pole with a 1:17.182, but Heidfeld outdid the Jaguar by one hundredth to take the top slot, 1:17.802. Alonso put in a solid 1:16.422 to take over but there was plenty of room for improvement on that.
Da Matta slotted into second behind Alonso and Barrichello was next out. The Brazilian improved on the Renault by only a tenth and a half, 1:16.272. Coulthard took third and Button set the fastest first sector but got all out of shape at Campsa and went over the grass. It ruined his lap, which looked to be heading for pole, and he was fifth. Teammate Sato managed to make it work, clocking 1:15.809 for provisional pole.
"It was very disappointing, it was going quite well," said Button. "I've been struggling with the set up round here, the conditions have changed a lot from earlier, it's quite windy now."
Michael shattered the times with a 1:15.022, nearly seven tenths up on Sato's time, to take the top spot and over a second up on teammate Barrichello. Raikkonen ran wide though the middle sector, which landed him seventh, while Webber managed fifth. Panis made a good effort for fourth, ahead of Alonso and both McLarens. With five to go, only Sato was on the pace at the front, splitting the Ferraris.
Trulli started the final group and was eight tenths down on Michael by the middle sector but it was enough to take third from Barrichello. Ralf slotted into fifth, a solid but unremarkable lap, and Massa was the first Sauber out. The Brazilian youngster made a mistake at turn seven and was a disappointing 15th. Teammate Fisichella was better and managed a fairly good 11th and Montoya was the last man out. The Williams moved Sato off the front row by taking second, six tenths down on Michael.
Michael and Juan Pablo side by side on the front row for the start of the race could be highly entertaining. Montoya is still seething about the incident at Imola where the pair fought at the start: let's hope they both keep their cool tomorrow. A good effort from Sato, Trulli and Panis but McLaren was disappointing after looking good in practice, Coulthard the best in 10th at the end of qualifying. Button subsided to a lowly 14th.
No surprises elsewhere, Alonso continued to struggle with the Renault over a single lap but a good start could see the local hero in the mix. Heidfeld finished a notable 15th, better than the Jaguar of Klien and the Sauber of Massa, which will surely give Eddie Jordan a reason to smile.
If Montoya, or anyone, can beat Michael at the start, we could have a race on our hands tomorrow. As for the first corner, Montoya grinned broadly and said: "We'll just have to wait and see what happens." Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Montoya, Sato, Trulli, Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Panis, Alonso.