Schumacher wins fight for Italian GP pole

Schumacher wins fight for Italian GP pole

Michael Schumacher won a tense battle for pole position in Saturday's qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, taking the front of the grid by just five hundredths of a second from Juan Pablo Montoya. Last man out, the Colombian hurtled round the ...

Michael Schumacher won a tense battle for pole position in Saturday's qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix, taking the front of the grid by just five hundredths of a second from Juan Pablo Montoya. Last man out, the Colombian hurtled round the Monza circuit but just couldn't find the extra pace to get ahead of championship rival Schumacher. The German's teammate Rubens Barrichello was third.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.
Marc Gen? was first to take to the track as stand in for Ralf Schumacher, who was withdrawn from the weekend still suffering from his accident in testing. Gen?, who was third fastest in the second practice session, set an excellent 1:21.834 for the first time of final qualifying. Jos Verstappen, who failed to set a time in yesterday's qualifying, was next out and was just over three seconds off the Williams.

Minardi teammate Nicolas Kiesa was already a second down in the first sector, nearly three in the middle, and a very wobbly moment at Ascari put him five seconds off provisional pole. Zsolt Baumgartner, standing in for Ralph Firman, was slightly faster than Kiesa and took third for Jordan on his run.

The second Jordan of Giancarlo Fisichella rounded off the first group and was an improvement, half a second down in one. The gap increased to 0.8 in two and a reasonable finish slotted the Italian into second. "It was a good lap, the car was much better, more consistent, so I'm a bit more optimistic for tomorrow," he said. "I hope for some points but we will see, I will push until the end."

Justin Wilson was the first Jaguar out, amid rumours that he's lost his seat to Sauber's Nick Heidfeld for next year, and posted third, a second and a half off pole. McLaren's David Coulthard was an early runner after a disappointing qualifying yesterday with gearbox gremlins. Three hundredths down in sector one, the Scot lost out in sector two but it was enough for second, six tenths off the pace. "It was an average lap but I expect people to go quicker as the track rubbers in," he said.

Jacques Villeneuve really threw the BAR round the track and although it was a ragged-looking lap he took third from Fisichella. "The car wasn't good in the morning but we sorted it out in warm up. It was not a bad lap and it should be good for tomorrow," said the Canadian. Heidfeld was half a second down in one, which increased to 1.5 in the middle, and nearly two seconds by the end of his lap for sixth. Jenson Button had a scorching lap and was just four tenths off Gene for second, the closest to pole, at the time, for the BAR driver.

The third group started with Toyota's Olivier Panis, who had an unsettled time in practices, bringing out the red flag when his car stopped on track. The Frenchman was better this time around and went fourth. The second Sauber of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who won at Monza in 1999 with Jordan, went a bit wide at Lesmo One but held it together to beat teammate Heidfeld, into seventh.

Fernando Alonso had a spin in the first chicane which ruined his lap straight off and he will start from the back of the grid tomorrow. "I had a problem with the traction control, it didn't work, so we need to look at that and see what went wrong," said the Spaniard. Renault teammate Jarno Trulli followed on with a good effort to close even further on Gen? by just over a tenth, for second. Mark Webber had a fairly conservative lap, nine-tenths off the pace for ninth position on his flyer but ahead of Wilson.

The big guns came out in the final group, starting with McLaren's championship contender Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn had a bit of understeer in the first sector but was slightly up on Gen? through two, following up with an even better one to take provisional pole with a 1:21.466, four tenths up. A great lap for Raikkonen. Cristiano da Matta was somewhat of a surprise in the front runners after his fourth in qualifying yesterday. The Toyota man couldn't keep the momentum going, though, and ended ninth.

Schumacher only registered three laps in the warm up for some reason but it didn't put him off. Two tenths up in sector one, he increased the gap to 0.4 in two and flew through the last sector to a provisional pole of 1:20.963, a fantastic lap and half a second faster than Raikkonen. Teammate Barrichello was a consistent two tenths behind Schumacher all the way through his lap to slot into second.

Montoya had it all to do as he took to the track for the final lap of the session. Fractionally up in one, the Williams driver kept it going but couldn't quite find the edge, splitting the Ferrari's by taking second, a mere five hundredths of a second behind Schumacher. A nail-biting finish and a grid line up that promises an interesting race.

"He (Montoya) made a small mistake in Ascari, otherwise it could have been pole," said Williams chief operations engineer Sam Michael. "We are still in a good position to start the race. It should be an exciting race and at least we have the other car up there too with Gen?."

Another good job by Gen? to finish fifth -- especially considering he was out first -- and by Button in seventh, but no real surprises in the top ten. Not bad efforts for Panis and Villeneuve in ninth and tenth and Bridgestone managed four in the first ten with the pair of BARs and Ferraris. Whoever gets the best start tomorrow will surely have the advantage and the fight for the first corner will be a tough one. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Montoya, Barrichello, Raikkonen, Gen?, Trulli, Button, Coulthard.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan