TRULLI AND RENAULT LEAD THE CHASE World champion Michael Schumacher set the pace in the opening qualifying of the Spanish Grand Prix -- but he faces stiff opposition. The German only just had the edge, however. Fastest Michelin qualifier Jarno...
TRULLI AND RENAULT LEAD THE CHASE
World champion Michael Schumacher set the pace in the opening qualifying of the Spanish Grand Prix -- but he faces stiff opposition. The German only just had the edge, however. Fastest Michelin qualifier Jarno Trulli was just 0.019s adrift -- and the Renault R23 has performed strongly all day.
His team-mate Fernando Alonso looked a likely pole position contender, too, but the local favourite made a mistake on his qualifying. His car slid wide and he was only 10th fastest after losing vital fractions of a second.
There were seven Michelin drivers in the top 10. Brazilian rookie Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, fourth) put in one of the day's most eye-catching performances and edged out team-mate Olivier Panis (sixth). Mark Webber (Jaguar, seventh) maintained his run of strong qualifying form and continues to attract rave reviews.
World championship leader Kimi Räikkönen and McLaren-Mercedes team-mate David Coulthard were evenly matched in eighth and ninth places. Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW) set the pace in this morning's opening free practice session but was only 11th this afternoon, three places ahead of team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya.
Pizzonia had a troubled start to the day. He picked up two fines for speeding during the morning's free practice session, when he also collided with one of his mechanics in the pit lane -- an incident that left the latter with cuts and bruises. Things ran a little more smoothly this afternoon and he qualified 13th.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director
Michelin's Spanish Grand Prix got off to a bright start with seven of its drivers annexing places in the top 10 during the opening qualifying session. Renault driver Jarno Trulli (second) spearheaded the French company's challenge and motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "Today's results confirmed most of our expectations. All five of our partner teams are showing that they have the capacity to challenge at the front and that confirms the quality of the work we are doing together."
Michelin has brought four different types of dry-weather tyre to Barcelona -- and it is possible that all of them might be used on Sunday. Pierre Dupasquier: "Sometimes it is easy to come to a quick decision about which tyre to use in the race, but the issue is far from clear this weekend and I don't expect teams to make up their minds until tomorrow. All our tyres performed well. From what we have seen today two of them appear to be very suitable for Barcelona -- but I wouldn't rule out the other two just yet. Everything could alter tomorrow if the track continues to evolve as much as it has today."
TYRE MAN'S THEORY OF EVOLUTION
Barcelona has a reputation as one of the most difficult challenges for tyre manufacturers, because the rate of wear is higher here than at any other of the 15 circuits on the world championship calendar. Pierre Dupasquier: "We all know how punishing Barcelona can be, but we were slightly taken back when we first ran this morning because the circuit was much more abrasive than when we last tested here. Track conditions have changed quite dramatically since then, however, and I believe they will continue to do so between now and the race."