Spanish GP: Michelin Saturday qualifying notes

RENAULT LOOKS FOR GAIN IN SPAIN Ferrari's new contender takes pole; Renault stars poised to make world champion fight World champion Michael Schumacher collected the pole position in Spain -- and Rubens Barrichello was second fastest to give the...

RENAULT LOOKS FOR GAIN IN SPAIN
Ferrari's new contender takes pole; Renault stars poised to make world champion fight

World champion Michael Schumacher collected the pole position in Spain -- and Rubens Barrichello was second fastest to give the new Ferrari F2003-GA a perfect start to its Formula One career. Michelin's partner teams have shown, however, that they will be a force in tomorrow's punishing 65-lap race. Renault team-mates Fernando Alonso -- the local favourite -- and Jarno Trulli annexed third and fourth positions and there are seven Michelin drivers in the top 12.

Alonso said: "Our car has been very good all weekend and we have an excellent chance to score lots of points tomorrow. It's also lovely to have my home crowd here, waving and cheering. That gives me even more motivation."

Of the other Michelin runners, Toyota put in its strongest qualifying performance since Australia. Olivier Panis qualified sixth but team-mate Cristiano da Matta (13th) compromised his lap by running wide ran wide onto the dirt. Ralf Schumacher (sixth) has qualified as fastest of the Williams-BMW drivers for the past three grands prix. His team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya (ninth) has struggled all weekend to balance his Williams-BMW. After spinning off the track during the first part of this morning's free practice session, when he buried his car axle-deep in the gravel at Turn Six, he had a smooth run this afternoon.

David Coulthard (eighth) led the McLaren-Mercedes challenge but team-mate -- and world championship leader -- Kimi Räikkönen will start tomorrow's race from the back after abandoning his qualifying attempt. The Finn -- the only driver to have finished on the podium in each of this season's first four grands prix -- was quicker than Coulthard through the first sector but speared wide off the track during the second and subsequently pulled into the pits.

Mark Webber (Jaguar, 12th) has been battling slight oversteer and was unable to maintain his recent run of top-six grid positions. Several drivers -- including Montoya -- have spoken out in defence of the Australian's under-fire rookie team-mate Antonio Pizzonia, after stories emerged that the Brazilian's seat at Jaguar might be in jeopardy. After a troubled first day -- when he picked up two pit speeding tickets and inflicted minor injuries on a member of his crew by running him over -- Pizzonia had no major dramas today and will line up 16th.

Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Michelin Motorsport Director

STRENGTH IN DEPTH
Michelin produced another strong qualifying performance during the build-up to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix. Renault drivers Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli have secured places on the second row of the grid and there are six Michelin drivers in the top 10. The company's motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier said: "As always it is hard to know where we stand in terms of race pace because some cars might have been running with 45 kg of fuel today while others might have been using 80. What I do know is that several Michelin cars were running substantial fuel loads and their performance in the circumstances has been extremely encouraging."

BACK TO FRONT
Michelin partner Team McLaren Mercedes currently leads both Formula One world championships -- for drivers and constructors. Kimi Räikkönen -- the driver others have to catch -- will have his work cut out tomorrow, however, because he ran off the circuit in qualifying and will start the race from the back of the pack. Pierre Dupasquier: "Kimi is the only driver to have finished on the podium in every grand prix so far this year. We saw him charge through from the back in Australia to finish third. Watching him trying to do something similar again will add another element of interest to what should be a fascinating race."

FOUR OUT OF FOUR
Michelin's partner teams have chosen to use our four available dry tyre options in tomorrow's race -- assuming the weather does not take a significant turn for the worse. Pierre Dupasquier: "I'm very pleased with the way our tyres have performed. We have given our teams a range of valid options and they have all been fast, consistent and durable. This might be the toughest race of the season in terms of tyre wear, because of the abrasive nature of the circuit, but I'm not at all worried about our prospects for tomorrow."

-michelin-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams