Diamonds and Dust


Ahead of what will hopefully be the last such qualifying session this season, the air temperature in Monaco is 22 degrees, while the track temperature has risen to 38 degrees.

First out today will be Tonio Liuzzi, followed by Friesacher, Albers, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve.

In this morning's second free practice session, Giancarlo Fisichella was just 0.003s off last year's pole time, which posted by race winner Jarno Trulli.

Liuzzi begins his out lap in the sensational looking Red Bull, with its Star Wars livery. The Italian works hard to get some heat into his tyres. At the first split he posts 20.108, the car is all over the place. At the second split it's 58.541, followed by a 1:16.817 at the line. Under the circumstances it was the best he could hope for.

Next up it's Friesacher, who continues to impress. At the first split it's 20.734, he's 06s down on Liuzzi. At the second split the Austrian posts 1:00.006, going on to cross the line at 1:18.574, just 1.7s down on the Red Bull.

Teammate Christijan Albers is next out. At the first split the Dutch driver posts 20.886, followed by a 1:00.369 at the second, again, he's down on his teammate. At the line the Minardi driver posts 1:19.229, which puts him third.

All eyes on Michael Schumacher, who completes the first sector in 20.002, he's 0.106s up on Liuzzi. At the second split it's 58.011, the car really lacking front grip. At the line it's 1:16.186, he's 0.6s up on Liuzzi, but it's not enough, far from it.

Last out before the first break is Jacques Villeneuve. At the first split the Canadian posts 19.794, he's up on Schumacher. At the second split the Sauber driver posts 57.646, followed by a 1:15.921 at the line, provisional pole for the 1997 World Champion, which puts Schumacher's time into perspective.

The order is Villeneuve, Schumacher, Liuzzi, Friesacher and Albers.

Next out is Narain Karthikeyan, who has been out-paced by his Jordan teammate, Monteiro, for much of the weekend, not to mention Friesacher.

At the first split the Indian posts 20.837, he's already over a second off the pace. At the second split the Jordan driver posts 1:00.776, his car all over the place. At the line it's 1:19.474, which puts him behind the Minardis.

Teammate Monteiro is next out, what can he do? At the first split it's 20.912, he's already down on Karthikeyan. At the second split its 1:00.666, as he continues to lose ground. At the line it's 1:19.408, he somehow manages to outpace Karthikeyan.

Felipe Massa is next out in the Sauber. At the first split the Brazilian posts 19.976, he's only 0.18s off the pace. He's pushing hard, giving it 100%, as he completes the second sector in 57.914. At the line the former Ferrari test driver posts 1:16.218, to go third, behind Schumacher.

Nick Heidfeld is next out, the German eager to outpace his Australian teammate. At the first split the WilliamsF1 driver posts 19.821, he's down on Villeneuve, but it's marginal. At the second split it's 57.412, as he now goes quickest, but can he maintain it. At the line it's 1:15.128, he goes quickest by 0.793s.

Rubens Barrichello is on track, can he out-qualify his Ferrari teammate? At the first split it's 19.935, he's 0.114s off the pace. At the second split the Brazilian posts 57.886, as he locks up at the Nouvelle Chicane. At the line it's 1:16.142, which puts him third, ahead of Schumacher.

At the second break, it's: Heidfeld, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Michael, Massa, Liuzzi, Friesacher, Albers, Monteiro and Karthikeyan.

David Coulthard is next out, the Scot still smarting from this morning's incident with Villeneuve and Ralf, for which all three blame Montoya. At the first split it's 19.690, he's quickest by 0.131s. At the second split it's 57.371, he's still quickest, but only just. At the line it's 1:15.329 as he loses time. Nonetheless, he goes second.

Next out is Montoya, who is under investigation following this morning's incident. At the first split the McLaren driver posts 19.712, he's quickest by 0.109s. At the second split he's still quickest, posting 57.072. At the line it's 1:14.858, provisional pole for the former Monaco winner.

Mark Webber is on track, he's out-paced his teammate for much of the weekend. At the first split the Australian posts 19.595, he's 0.117s up on Montoya. At the second split it's 56.956, he's still quickest, but it's marginal. At the line it's 1:14.584, top take provisional pole, a great lap with which he'll be delighted.

This morning's pace-setter, Fisichella, is next out. At the first split the Italian posts 19.664, he's down on Webber, but only just. At the second split the Renault driver, who won in Australia, posts 56.773, to go quickest. At the line it's 1:14.783, to go second, having lost a heap of time at Rascasse.

Last out before the final break is Ralf, what can he do? At the first split the German posts 19.646, he's 0.051s down on Webber. At Tabac he clouts the inside barriers which in turns sends him across the track into the outer barriers. The session is immediately red-flagged. He's out of the car, clearly unhurt, though his ego will be more than a little bruised. That said, he was due to have half-a-second added to his aggregate time anyway, as a result of that tyre mishap.

At the final break, with three drivers left to run, it's: Webber, Fisichella, Montoya, Heidfeld, Coulthard, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Michael, Massa and Liuzzi.

The marshals are on track clearing the track, which will almost certainly have water and oil deposits, not to mention the concrete dust, all of which is bad news for the last three out, particularly Trulli, who is next out. As Trulli, Alonso and Raikkonen wait for the re-start, a track-sweeping vehicle is introduced in an effort to clean up the Tabac corner.

Finally, the track appears to be clear, and the 'green light' is given. The track temperature has now risen to 42 degrees C.

2004 winner Jarno Trulli leaves his garage, this is a step into the unknown for the Italian. Clearly there is still sand on track as he works hard to scrub it from his tyres. At the first split it's 19.762, he's already 0.167s down on Webber. At the second split it's 57.423, he's now 0.467s off the pace. At the line it's 1:15.189, which puts him fifth, he'll be bitterly disappointed.

All eyes on Fernando Alonso, who is next out. At the first split it's 19.461, he's 0.134s up on the WilliamsF1. It's the second split that will cause problems, however he is still up, posting 56.508. The Spaniard crosses the line at 1:14.125, to take provisional pole by 0.459, a stunning lap, worthy of a World Champion.

Last out is Raikkonen, what can he produce? At the first split the Finn posts 19.235, he's 0.226s up on Alonso. At the second split it's 56.128, s he maintains the pace. At the line it's 1:13.644, he takes provisional pole by 0.481, an absolutely superb lap from the diamond encrusted McLaren driver.

In the McLaren garage the crew salutes its hero, and rightly so, it was absolutely brilliant lap, the stuff of legends.

The session ends with Raikkonen quickest, ahead of Alonso, Webber, Fisichella, Montoya, Heidfeld, Trulli, Coulthard, Villeneuve and Barrichello.

Michael is eleventh, ahead of Massa, Liuzzi, Friesacher, Albers, Monteiro, Karthikeyan and Ralf.

As from next week (hopefully), that would have been the grid for the race, and what a grid, however, for the time being we still have another session to go tomorrow morning.

Clearly, as expected, Ferrari is struggling, and it really appears as though this weekend will be about damage limitation.

Villeneuve will be absolutely delighted with his performance, especially having outpaced not merely his teammate, but both Ferraris.

Both Renaults are in the top four, while WilliamsF1 will be delighted with the showing by its drivers, particularly Webber.

Whether Trulli can repeat his 2004 triumph remains to be seen, but in all honesty it looks unlikely.

As for McLaren, the Woking team must head into tomorrow's qualifying session, and of course the race, oozing confidence, with Raikkonen looking very, very good.

There is a question mark hanging over Montoya however, as stewards continue to investigate this morning's incident, with all three of the drivers involved - Coulthard, Ralf and Villeneuve - claiming that the Colombian brake-tested his former WilliamsF1 teammate. We only have to look back twelve months to the incident involving Juan Pablo and the other Schumacher, at this very circuit.

It only remains to be seen what the stewards decide and what punishment is subsequently meted out to the McLaren driver, for what appeared to be a reckless move, at least in our opinion.

For now, however, let's savour Raikkonen's wonder lap, and the prospect of thrilling battle on Sunday.

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Published: 21/05/2005
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