Raikkonen takes provisional pole at Imola

23/04/2005
NEWS STORY

With just three minutes to go before the start of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 19 degrees C, while the track temperature is 32 degrees.

First out will be F1 race 'virgin' Tonio Liuzzi, who will be followed by Alexander Wurz, Narain Karthikeyan, Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher.

At precisely 13:00, Tonio Liuzzi heads down the pitlane, the session is underway.

He crosses the line to begin his first ever F1 qualifying session. At the first split it's 23.557, followed by a 50.771 at the second, as he uses every inch of the Imola track. He rides the kerbs, crossing the line at 1:21.804.

Wurz completes the first sector in 23.249, the McLaren looking as smooth as silk. At the second split it's 50.121, he's 0.6s up on Liuzzi. At the line the Austrian posts 1:20.632 to take provisional pole, but slower than his time this morning.

Karthikeyan posts 24.102 at the first split, he's already almost a second down. At the second split it's 51.614, the Indian youngster giving 100%. At the line the Jordan star posts 1:23.123, 2.491s down on Wurz.

Melbourne winner Giancarlo Fisichella is next out, the Italian completing the first sector in 23.322. At the second split it's 50.203, he's still down on the McLaren driver. He's way out of shape in the second of the Rivazza corners, losing precious time. He crosses the line at 1:21.708 to go second.

At the first split Michael Schumacher posts 23.099, he's 0.150s up on Wurz. The German is pushing hard, completing the second sector in 49.808, he's now 0.312s to the good. At the line it's 1:20.260, provisional pole for the world Champion.

At the first break, it's Schumacher ahead of Wurz, Fisichella, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan.

Next out will be Nick Heidfeld, who will be followed by Takuma Sato, however the BAR mechanics are swarming over the Japanese driver's car, which apparently has a gearbox problem.

Heidfeld begins his lap, no sign of the back pains, which according to some threatened to stop him competing here this weekend. At the first split it's 23.333, he's 0.134s down on Schumacher. At the second split the WilliamsF1 star posts 50.068, he's now 0.260s down on the Ferrari driver. At the line the German posts 1:20.807 to take third.

Sato is on track, the gearbox problem fixed. At the first split he posts 23.233, he's 0.134s down on Schumacher. At the second split it's 50.062, followed by a 1:20.851 at the line, he goes fourth.

Teammate Jenson button is next out, the Englishman setting a blistering pace on his out lap. At the first split it's 23.179, he's down on Schumacher, but it's marginal. At the second split it's 49.955, he's now 0.147s down on the German. At the line it's 1:20.464, he goes second by 0.204.

At the first split, Christijan albers posts 24.813, he's 1.7s down on provisional pole. At the second split it's 53.584, he's now 3.7s off the pace. At the line it's 1:25.921, to go ninth.

Teammate Patrick Friesacher is next, what can he manage? At the first split it's 24.738, followed by a 53.208 at the second. At the line the Austrian posts 1:26.484 to go tenth, of ten.

At the second break it's Schumacher from Button, Wurz, Heidfeld, Sato, Fisichella, Liuzzi, Karthikeyan, Albers and Friesacher.

Jacques Villeneuve leaves the pits, the Canadian already has an advantage over his teammate in the sense that Massa will forfeit ten grid spots following an engine change on Friday.

At the first split it's 23.318 followed by 50.086 at the second, he's 0.2378s off the pace. At the line it's 1:20.999, a superb lap from the Canadian, which puts him sixth.

Next out is Tiago Monteiro in the Jordan. At the first split he posts 24.9 followed by a 52.971 at the second. At the line it's 1:25.100 which puts him tenth.

Rubens Barrichello is next out. At the first split the Brazilian posts 23.426, he's down on Schumacher, but only just. At the second split it's 50.157, he's now 0.349s down on the German. At the line the Ferrari driver posts 1:20.892, which puts him sixth.

David Coulthard is on track in the Red Bull. At the first split the Scot posts 23.667, he's 0.568s down on Schumacher. At the second split it's 50.714, he's now almost a second down. At the line the veteran posts 1:21.632 to go eighth.

Last out, before the final break, is Massa. At the first split the Sauber star posts 23.365, he's 0.266s down on Schumacher. At the second split it's 50.023, as he pushes the car to its limit. At the line it's 1:20.593, which puts him third… but remember he loses ten grid places.

Mark Webber is next out. The Australian drives a slow, smooth, out lap, then 'turns it on' as he crosses the line. At the first split it's 23.327, followed by a 50.136 at the second. The williamsF1 driver crosses the line at 1:20.442 to go second, a very, very good lap.

Ralf Schumacher is next out in the Toyota. At the first split the German, who won here in 2001, posts 23.473, he's already 0.37s down on his brother. At the second split it's 50.553, he's now 0.745s down. At the line it's 1:20.994, to go ninth, pretty much what was expected here.

Now it's the turn of Kimi Raikkonen. At the first split the Finn posts 23.048, he's 0.051s up on Schumacher. At the second split it's 49.541, he's now 0.267s up on the German. At the line it's 1:19.886, provisional pole for the McLaren driver.

Jarno Trulli is on track in the Toyota. At the first split the Italian posts 23.206, he's 0.158s down on Raikkonen. At the second split it's 50.011, he's now 0.4s down on the Finn. It's about damage limitation as the former Renault driver posts 1:20.492 to go fifth, an impressive lap, under the circumstances.

At the first split, Alonso posts 23.137, he's 0.089s down on Raikkonen. At the second split the World Championship leader posts 49.675, as he loses further ground to the McLaren. At the line it's 1:19.889, second spot for the Spaniard by a mere 0.003s.

Therefore, we have Kimi Raikkonen on provisional pole, ahead of Alonso, Michael, Webber, Button, Trulli, Massa, Wurz, Heidfeld and Sato.

The top 13 are covered by 1.113s, while the top 10 are covered by less than a second.

A great lap from Raikkonen, whilst full credit must also go to Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Webber for what has been an entertaining session which keeps things nice and tight.

Of course, today they're running on light fuel loads, and tomorrow, when they run on race fuel, will be the real test.

Then, of course, there's the little matter of the weather.

There's still a long, long way to go and it is almost impossible to call, with seven different manufacturers filling the top seven spots, just the way F1 should be.

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Published: 23/04/2005
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