US GP: Michelin Saturday qualifying notes

RÄIKKÖNEN CLINCHES MICHELIN'S EIGHTH POLE OF THE YEAR Bibendum's title challengers steal a march on Schuey at Indy Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) boosted his world championship hopes by qualifying fastest for the United...

RÄIKKÖNEN CLINCHES MICHELIN'S EIGHTH POLE OF THE YEAR
Bibendum's title challengers steal a march on Schuey at Indy

Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes/Michelin) boosted his world championship hopes by qualifying fastest for the United States GP -- only the second time in his relatively short Formula One career that he has taken pole position. The 23-year-old Finn has a chance of becoming the sport's youngest world champion and he lapped in 1m 11.670s, 0.124s quicker than closest challenger Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari).

It was another dominant qualifying performance by Michelin, whose drivers took eight of the top 10 grid positions. Its second title contender Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) increased his chances of cutting back arch-rival Michael Schumacher's three-point championship lead by qualifying fourth, three places ahead of the German. It will be the first time that the Ferrari star has not started from pole position at Indianapolis.

Ralf Schumacher crashed during this morning's free practice but bounced back to qualify fifth in the second Williams-BMW. Räikkönen's team-mate David Coulthard maintained his disappointing run of qualifying form. The Scot has lined up in the top four only twice all season -- and has not done so since the Brazilian GP, in April. He will start eighth tomorrow.

Frenchman Olivier Panis (Toyota/Michelin) put in the day's least expected performance by qualifying third -- the Japanese team's best grid position to date. It also equalled the Frenchman's personal best. His team-mate Cristiano da Matta was ninth. Although the Brazilian has plenty of Stateside experience -- he won last year's prestigious US-based Champ Car title -- he has never previously raced on either the road course or the ooval at Indianapolis.

Of the remaining Michelin runners, Fernando Alonso was sixth for Renault, but there was disappointment for his team-mate Jarno Trulli. Having set the pace in yesterday's opening qualifying session, the Italian upset his final qualifying preparations by crashing during the 15-minute warm-up session. The team worked swiftly to repair his damaged chassis but he was only able to qualify 10th.

Jaguar drivers Mark Webber (14th), who lost time with a brief wobble at the first turn, and Justin Wilson (16th) were the only Michelin drivers not to make the top 10.

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

BIBENDUM AT HOME IN INDIANA
Michelin drivers dominated qualifying for United States Grand Prix -- the 15th, and penultimate, round of the 2003 world championship. Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren Mercedes) secured the second pole position of his career and Michelin's eighth of the season. He and fellow world championship contender Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team/Michelin, fourth) lapped comfortably faster than title rival Michael Schumacher. Frenchman Olivier Panis gave Toyota its best F1 qualifying result to date by setting third fastest time. Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, fifth), Fernando Alonso (Renault, sixth), David Coulthard (West McLaren Mercedes, eighth), Cristiano da Matta (Toyota, ninth) and Jarno Trulli (Renault, 10th) completed Michelin's armada of eight drivers in the top 10.

BALANCING ACT
Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier was happy after watching his partner teams string together another collectively strong qualifying performance. He said: "It is very difficult to strike the right balance at Indianapolis, because teams have to generate good top-end performance for the long main straight without sacrificing too much grip through the infield. We have to develop tyres that will cope with these two strongly contrasting elements and it is very satisfying to see that we have been able to maintain the level of competitiveness that has been our hallmark this season."

TWO INTO ONE WILL GO
If the rain holds off tomorrow, both of Michelin's dry-weather compounds will be used in the race. Pierre Dupasquier said: "There are only subtle differences between our tyres. One is slightly quicker than the other a single flying lap, but the other might be a little more consistent over a long run. Things are delicately poised and it promises to be a very interesting race. We have absolutely no concerns about tyre wear with either compound."

-michelin-

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