Scorching pole position for Ralf in Monaco GP

Scorching pole position for Ralf in Monaco GP

Ralf Schumacher set a scorching pace through the streets of Monaco to put himself on pole position for tomorrow's Grand Prix. The younger of the Schumacher brothers flew round the track, completely outclassing the Ferraris, which only managed...

Ralf Schumacher set a scorching pace through the streets of Monaco to put himself on pole position for tomorrow's Grand Prix. The younger of the Schumacher brothers flew round the track, completely outclassing the Ferraris, which only managed fifth and sixth. Ralf pipped McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen to pole by a mere three hundredths of a second and Juan Pablo Montoya was third.

Ralf Schumacher.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen was first out after failing to set a time in yesterday's qualifying session and the Sauber man posted a 1:17.402 to start the proceedings. Cristiano da Matta took provisional pole with 1:16.744, an improvement for Toyota, but teammate Olivier Panis could only manage third on his lap.

Justin Wilson had a big oversteer in Tabac and was down by three seconds and Minardi teammate Jos Verstappen fared not much better, the pair trading fourth place. Jaguar's Antonio Pizzonia posted a tidy but cautious second fastest.

Fernando Alonso, who had an unsettled time up to qualifying, took provisional pole with 1:15.844 for Renault, which was a good time for such an early run. "I lost time in the earlier days," said Alonso. "But this qualifying was quite a good lap. The car seems to be working better in the higher temperature so I'm confident for the top ten."

Jordan's Ralf Firman, on his first race weekend at Monaco, had an encouraging performance until losing out in the final sector to go fifth. "It wasn't too bad," he said. "But I had too much understeer at the end. It's an amazing circuit to drive on."

With Jenson Button in one piece but still in hospital after his crash in practice, Jacques Villeneuve was the sole BAR. The Canadian was eight tenths off pole in third on his run.

Raikkonen set the first blistering lap of the day, a 1:15.298, his fastest of the weekend and nearly six tenths up on Alonso to take provisional pole. Nick Heidfeld went wide in Tabac and a bit loose in the swimming pool turn which resulted in sixth for the second Sauber.

Mark Webber was not quite on his usual qualifying form, nine-tenths off Raikkonen to go third. Montoya was the first to threaten the Finn's time, another blistering lap that was just a tenth behind for second. Giancarlo Fisichella had a poor first sector, which was a shame as he'd been on the pace in practices. The Jordan was seventh fastest.

Ralf has been having a problem with his brakes overheating in practices but it obviously didn't put him off. His lap was fantastically on the ball, just three hundredths quicker than Raikkonen but enough to take pole. "This weekend we seem to have improved," he commented. "We've been pretty strong and the Michelins have picked up between Thursday and now. But let's see where I end up!" He needn't have worried.

David Coulthard, who won at Monaco last year and had been fastest in the pre-qualifying practice, couldn't carry the pace through and only managed fourth on his qualifying run. Jarno Trulli, who's had the upper hand on Renault teammate Alonso so far this weekend, kept his pedal to the metal to take the fourth place from the Scot.

So, what could the Ferraris do? Not a lot, was the answer. Rubens Barrichello was two tenths down by the middle sector and posted a surprisingly poor sixth -- although his Ferrari sounded rough as he crossed the line. Michael was equally lacklustre; slightly wide in Tabac was the only noticeable quirk but he couldn't do better than fifth.

Ralf, Raikkonen and Montoya were up front in a class of their own and there were some mighty happy faces in the Williams garage at the close of the session. McLaren were not quite so happy, Kimi's run applause worthy but Coulthard produced less than expected. As for Ferrari, Jean Todt looked like he was sucking a lemon; even Michael seemed lost for words to explain where he had lost the time.

The Ferraris were the only two Bridgestone runners to make the top ten; Michelin has been improving every practice and it certainly worked out in the all important second qualifying.

The first corner is going to be one to watch with your eyes closed in tomorrow's race -- Ralf, Raikkonen and Montoya fighting to get there ahead promises to be a nail-biter. Final top eight classification: R. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Montoya, Trulli, M. Schumacher, Coulthard, Barrichello, Alonso.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Jos Verstappen , Antonio Pizzonia , Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Justin Wilson , Fernando Alonso , Jean Todt , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan