Spanish GP: Raikkonen takes second successive pole


No matter what happens this morning, two men will be starting this afternoon's race from the wrong end of the grid. Rubens Barrichello loses ten grid spots as a result of an engine change on Saturday morning, while Nick Heidfeld loses twenty spots - yes, even though only 18 cars are taking part - as a result of two engine changes. A ludicrous situation.

With the top six covered by less than a quarter of a second, we can expect a tight session today, especially between former teammates Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso, though let's not rule out Kimi Raikkonen.

The Bridgestones appear to need a lap before they 'come 'good', which accounts for Michael Schumacher's (relatively) poor qualifying pace, and Ross Brawn's insistence that the car will have good "race pace".

With five minutes remaining before the session kicks off, Patrick Friesacher settles into the cockpit of his Minardi PS05. The Austrian is first out this morning, followed by Albers, Monteiro, Karthikeyan and Villeneuve.

The air temperature is 19 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24 degrees. Conditions are absolutely perfect, with hardly a cloud in the sky.

At 10:00 precisely, Friesacher leaves his garage, the session begins. It's early days for the PS05, but the car certainly shows a lot of pace. He's really fighting the car, it's quite frightening to watch as he 'saws' away at the wheel. He crosses the line at 2:42.759.

Teammate Albers is next out, the Dutchman 0.7s up on Friesacher at the first split. He crosses the line at 2:41.141 to take provisional pole, maintaining the 0.7s lead over his teammate.

By the end of the second split Monteiro is 0.9s up on Albers, however as he crosses the line his Toyota engine blows big time, the first failure for some time. Nevertheless he goes quickest with a 2:39.943.

At this point the red flags come out as marshals remove oil from the track, Karthikeyan, who was already on his out lap, returns to his garage.

On track, it's a scene out of the seventies as the marshals clean the track with brushes and cement dust.

After several minutes, the lights go green, and Karthikeyan returns to the track.

At the first split the Indian is 0.6s up on his teammate, as he continues to impress. At the second split the gap is 0.7s. At the line the Jordan star posts 2:39.268, to take provisional pole, kicking up clouds of cement dust.

Next out is Jacques Villeneuve, who has admitted to being dreadful yesterday. At the first split the Canadian is 2.1s up on Karthikeyan, and so he should be. At the second split it's 2.4s, finally crossing the line at 2:36.480, to take provisional pole by 1.7s.

At the 'break', the marshals take full advantage of the lull and return to the track to lay more cement dust, even though, judging from Karthikeyan and Villeneuve's times it isn't really needed.

Next out is Tonio Liuzzi in the Red Bull, he's been looking good for much of the weekend. The Italian crosses the line to begin his lap, completing the first sector 0.5s to the good of Villeneuve. At the second split the gap is up to 1.1s, it's a good lap, thus far. At the line it's 2:35.302, a good lap.

All eyes on Juan Pablo Montoya, who admits to having a poor session yesterday. At the first split the Colombian is 0.7s up on Liuzzi. He's pushing hard, completing the second sector 1.1 up on the Red Bull. He positively charging, crossing the line at 2:33.472, to take provisional pole by 0.3s.

Felipe Massa is next out, he will me keen to beat his teammate. At the first split, not surprisingly, he's 0.1s down on the McLaren. At the second split he's 0.6s down, finally crossing the line at 2:34.224, to go second.

David Coulthard is on track, the Scot keen to reassert his authority within the Red Bull team. At the first split he's 0.1s up on Montoya, showing none of the caution that cost him so dearly on Saturday. At the second split however, he's 0.4s down on the McLaren, finally crossing the line at 2:34.168, to go second.

Rubens Barrichello, who was due to forfeit ten grid places anyway, opts not to go out, which means that there is an extended break.

Therefore, at the second break, Montoya is on provisional pole, ahead of Coulthard, Massa, Liuzzi, Villeneuve, Karthikeyan, Monteiro, Albers and Friesacher.

Melbourne winner Giancarlo Fisichella is next out, the Roman really needing a little bit of luck following a string of failures.. much like Rubens at Ferrari, the problems never appear to affect the 'other guy' in his garage.

At the first split the Renault driver is 0.3s up on Montoya. He's pushing hard and consequently has an 0.6s advantage at the second split. He crosses the line at 2:32.830 to take provisional pole. A strong lap.

Michael Schumacher begins his lap, the German really does need to improve on his current grid position. At the first split he's up on Fisichella, but it's marginal. At the second split he's 0.4s down on the Italian. At the line the world champion posts 2:33.551, which puts him third, which is not what he wanted.

Mark Webber is next out, he was impressive yesterday, especially since he had no running on Friday. At the first split he's 0.6s up on 'Fisi', maintaining the gap in the second sector. At the line the WilliamsF1 driver posts 2:31.668, to take provisional pole by 0.5s.

Ralf Schumacher is next out, Nick Heidfeld, who will start from the back of the grid, has followed Barrichello's example and chooses not to run.

At the first split Ralf is 0.1s up on Webber, however, he loses time in the second sector. At the line the German posts 2:31.917 to take second. A pretty good lap.

At the final break, it's Webber ahead of Ralf, Fisichella, Montoya, Michael, Coulthard, Massa, Liuzzi, Villeneuve and Karthikeyan.

Kimi Raikkonen is next out, the Finn determined to make up for yesterday's error - at Turn 2 - which cost him dearly. There's no doubt that the McLaren has raw pace, it's the car's reliability that is in question. Kimi completes the first sector 0.2s up on Webber. At the second split he maintains the gap, still 0.2s up on the Australian. At the line it's 2:31.421, to take provisional pole. An excellent lap, but one can't help but feel that it could have been better.

The crowd goes wild, Fernando Alonso is on track, however, at the first split he's 0.1s down on Raikkonen. At the second split the Spaniard is still shy on the McLaren, but it's marginal. At the line it's 2:31.691, which puts him third, the crowd falls silent.

All eyes on Jarno Trulli who is 0.1s down on Raikkonen at the first split. The Italian is pushing hard but it's not enough, at the second split he's 0.3s down. At the line it's 2:31.995, which puts him a very disappointing fifth, behind his teammate.

Well, that's certainly surprised a few people, not least the partisan crowd.

Raikkonen's lap was good, but it didn't look that good. Therefore one has to wonder whether Alonso and Trulli, and possibly Webber, were running a little heavier, thinking race tactics as opposed to grid positions.

So, to sum up, Kimi Raikkonen starts from pole position, for the second successive race, ahead of Webber, Alonso, Ralf, Trulli, Fisichella, Montoya, Michael, Coulthard and Massa.

Liuzzi starts from eleventh, ahead of Villeneuve, Karthikeyan, Monteiro, Albers, Friesacher, Heidfeld and Barrichello.

An interesting session, which, once again, poses more questions than it answers. Has the McLaren got the reliability, and has the WilliamsF1 got the pace?

Alonso is sure to be fired up by the crowd, while Toyota is looking mighty impressive… then again, there's the mouth-watering prospect of Michael and Montoya starting from the fourth row of the grid, behind Trulli and Fisichella, but ahead of Coulthard and Massa.

Leaving the BAR saga aside, F1 is looking good again.

Let's hope it lives up to expectations this afternoon, and that Imola wasn't a 'flash in the pan'.

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Published: 08/05/2005
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