Toyota's Jarno Trulli snatched provisional pole position in first qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, in a very close session that saw the top four separated by less than eight hundredths of a second. Renault's Fernando Alonso was under two ...
Toyota's Jarno Trulli snatched provisional pole position in first qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, in a very close session that saw the top four separated by less than eight hundredths of a second. Renault's Fernando Alonso was under two hundredths from Trulli for second and the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen was fractionally behind in third. The second Toyota of Ralf Schumacher made up the speedy quartet at the front.
Conditions were clear and sunny with a track temperature of around forty degrees as Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren started the proceedings. McLaren was very quick in the morning practices but Montoya's qualifying won't be helped by going out first. The Colombian clocked 1:15.902, which was over a second slower than his practice time.
Giancarlo Fischella led out for Renault and was only three tenths quicker, 1:15.601. Patrick Friesacher was the first Minardi and was nearly five seconds off the pace. Raikkonen went a little wide at turn two on his lap but was a comfortable eight tenths quicker than Fisichella to take provisional pole with a 1:14.819.
Ferrari was not entirely happy with Rubens Barrichello's engine this morning so it was changed and he will lose 10 places on the grid. The Brazilian took third behind Fisichella, nine tenths off the pace. The second Minardi of Christijan Albers had a fairly tidy lap to go over half a second faster than teammate Friesacher.
Jordan's Tiago Monteiro was faster than the Minardis for fifth and his teammate Narain Karthikeyan was better still to take the position off him. David Coulthard was a tenth up on Raikkonen in the first sector but lost out quite a lot in the last. It was enough for fourth, ahead of Montoya.
Sauber's Felipe Massa had a bit of a ragged middle sector but also went ahead of Montoya, and was less than a tenth slower than Coulthard. Ralf Schumacher, the fastest man in the last practice session, was fastest in the first two sectors but the Toyota lost out slightly in the final part of the lap to slot into second, just five hundredths behind Raikkonen.
Red Bull's Tonio Liuzzi had a lock up at turn 10 and went a bit wide; he posted 10th after an untidy lap. Mark Webber was the first Williams and was almost three tenths up on Raikkonen through the first sector. He held it through the middle but he too lost out at the end and clocked third.
Webber's teammate Nick Heidfeld was also quick until the final sector but it was enough to take third from Mark. However, Heidfeld will suffer the 10 place demotion on the grid as he had an engine change. Webber also had a new engine today but did not run on Friday so avoids the penalty.
Trulli was the man to dislodge Raikkonen from provisional pole and the Toyota clocked 1:14.795 -- just two hundredths up on the McLaren. Jacques Villeneuve posted 12th, nearly two seconds off Trulli and nine tenths down on Sauber teammate Massa.
Michael Schumacher was the penultimate runner -- Ferrari hasn't looked very on the pace this weekend so far and he could only manage sixth. Alonso was last man out and the roar from the crowds was deafening. He was on Trulli's pace all the way but missed it by a fraction to take second.
"I am a little bit surprised to be here because all morning I have been struggling a lot with the car," said Trulli. "I did a great lap and I'd like to thank the team -- we keep improving and it's a good result for all of us."
Alonso intends to be at the sharp end tomorrow: "I made a couple of small mistakes on my timed lap, so I am pleased to be in the top three for tomorrow morning and, probably, the race," he said. "I think we are set up well for tomorrow... when I will be able to attack even more."
Raikkonen was unhappy about not being on provisional pole. "I am a bit disappointed because I ran wide on corner two," the Finn commented. "I lost quite a bit of time. The car seems to be quick, I'm just not happy being third. I feel we should have been quite a bit quicker."
A very close qualifying -- the top four were 0.075 apart and the top six separated by two and a half tenths. The top ten were covered by a second and Massa and Montoya, who finished 11th and 12th respectively, were only a tenth further down. Pole tomorrow could easily go to any of the top four, although the Williams pair are probably a little too far away for a chance.
"We've still only done half the job," said a cheery Mike Gascoyne, Toyota's technical director. "It was very tight, Alonso was on form as well. This is very much an aerodynamic circuit, there's a lot of high speed corners and we've worked on the aerodynamics, we have a lot of updates for here."
Raikkonen will be the man to watch in tomorrow morning's qualifying as his time today was exceptional considering he was out so early and also made a mistake. Ferrari was not so hot but over a race distance we know how Michael can climb the ranks. Final top eight classification: Trulli, Alonso, Raikkonen, R. Schumacher, Heidfeld, Webber, M. Schumacher, Fisichella,