Raikkonen retains pole, but the heat is on


How wonderful that, providing sanity prevails, and that there is no threat from typhoons in Japan, this will be the last Sunday qualifying session of 2005. Which thereby allows us all to have a little longer in bed, in preparation for the race, and puts more emphasis on Saturday.

The proposed format isn't perfect, far from it, but it's a step in the right direction.

Whatever happens in today's session, several things are guaranteed. Narain Karthikeyan loses ten grid spots following an engine change - which on current pace puts him - 8, while Ralf Schumacher and great friend Juan Pablo Montoya will form the last row.

Ralf is there because he crashed on Saturday, thereby failing to post a time, while Juan Pablo is there as punishment for his ludicrous behaviour during the second free practice session, when he was adjudged to have brake-tested his former teammate, causing a collision that involved the German, as well as Coulthard and Villeneuve.

With less than a couple of minutes to go, the air temperature is 22 degrees, while the track temperature is 25 degrees.

First out today will be Ralf, though it is unlikely that he will actually bother completing a 'flying lap' since it won't affect his grid position.

At 10:00 precisely, the German leaves the pits. Sure enough, at the end of his 'out' lap he pulls into the pits.

Next out is Narain Karthikeyan in the Jordan. The Russian-owned team is under pressure, having been out-qualified by Minardi yesterday. He doesn't nip back into the pits, choosing to continue and set a proper time. However, the car is all over the place, a real handful. At the line his aggregate is 2:43.442.

Next out is teammate Tiago Monteiro, who has been the quicker Jordan driver for much of the weekend. Again, it's a scrappy lap, more due to the car than the driver. At the first split he's 0.3s down, however he pulls back time in the second sector. At the line it's 2:43.078, provisional pole.

Christijan Albers is next, he too is under pressure from his teammate. At the first split he's 0.5s up on Monteiro. At the second split he's 1.1s up on the Jordan, the Minardi actually looking good. At the line it's 2:42.206.

Next is the ever-improving Patrick Friesacher. At the first split the Austrian is 1.2s up on Albers, unbelievable. At the second split he 1.6s to the good, however he's a little too enthusiastic and almost hits the barriers. At the line it's 2:40.810, a brilliant lap, under the circumstances. Messy, but good.

Next out, after the break, will be Tonio Liuzzi, who will be keen to keep Friesacher behind him.

At the first split the Italian is 2.2s up on Friesacher, but he appears to be over-driving the car, pushing a little too hard. At the second split it's 2.7s, but he goes oh so close to the barriers, it's heart in mouth stuff. At the line it's 2:37.152. Phew!

Now it's the turn of Felipe Massa, what can he do? At the first split the Brazilian 0.8s up on Liuzzi, much as you'd expect. At the second split the Sauber star is 1.7 to the good, finally crossing the line at 2:35.120, a good lap.

All eyes on Michael Schumacher, who needs to do something superhuman, again. At the first split the German is down on Massa's time, clearly he's running a heavy fuel load. At the second split he's up on the Sauber, but it's marginal. At the line the seven-time World Champion posts 2:34.736 to go quickest.

Teammate Rubens Barrichello is next out, can he out-qualify his teammate? At the first split he's up on Schumacher, but it's tight. At the second split the Brazilian is 0.1s down on his teammate, locking up heavily at Rascasse. At the line it's 2:34.983, which is only good enough for second.

Now it's the turn of Jacques Villeneuve, who is still smarting from yesterday's incident with Montoya. At the first split the former World Champion is 0.2s up on Schumacher. He maintains the pace, completing the second sector 0.1s up on Schumacher. However he loses time in the final sector and can only manage 2:34.936, which puts him second, splitting the Ferraris.

At the second break, it's Schumacher, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Massa, Liuzzi, Friesacher, Albers, Monteiro and Karthikeyan, with Ralf failing to post a time.

Next up is David Coulthard, twice a winner here, and a man destined to drop his trews should he make it on to the podium today. At the first split the Scot is 1.0s up on Schumacher, using all his experience of this most demanding of circuits. At the second split he's 0.8s up on the German. At the line the Red Bull star posts 2:33.867, a good lap from the veteran F1 star.

Next out is Jarno Trulli, who really does need to make up some grid spots. At the first split the 2004 winner is 0.3s up on Coulthard, going on to increase the 'gap' to 1.0s at the second. At the line the Toyota star posts 2:33.590, a great lap that gets him provisional pole.

Last out before the final break is Nick Heidfeld. At the first split the German is up on Trulli, but it's marginal. He loses time in the second sector, going on to cross the line at 2:32.883, which puts him second.

Juan Pablo Montoya is due out next, but as expected the Colombian opts not to run, not even for an 'out' lap.

Therefore, Giancarlo Fisichella is next out, the Italian looking good for much of the weekend, but oddly enough, not in Saturday's qualifying session. At the first split the Renault star is 0.3s up on Trulli, but he needs more if he is to leapfrog Webber. At the second split he's still 0.3s up on the Toyota driver. At the line it's 2:32.100, provisional pole.

At the final break, it's: Fisichella, Trulli, Heidfeld, Coulthard, Schumacher, Villeneuve, Barrichello, Massa, Liuzzi and Friesacher, with just three drivers - Webber, Alonso and Raikkonen - still to run.

First of these to go is WilliamsF1's Mark Webber, he is now under pressure from Fisichella. At the first split the Australian is 0.3s up on Fisichella, the WilliamsF1 looking surprisingly smooth, at certain spots. At the second split he's still 0.3s up on the Italian, it's looking good. He locks up (slightly) at Rascasse but still goes quickest with a 2:31.656. A good lap.

Now it's Alonso's turn, can he overhaul Raikkonen. At the first split the Spaniard is 0.8s up on Webber, the Renault star giving 100%, as ever. At the second split he's 1.1s to the good, going on to cross the line at 2:30.406, a superb lap.

All eyes on Kimi Raikkonen who will be eager to retain his pole spot. At the first split the Finn is 0.1s up on Alonso, though he locks up slightly. At the second split he's still 0.1s, can he maintain it to the line. He crosses the line at 2:30.323 to retain pole position, even though Alonso's time (today) was quicker.

Therefore, Raikkonen starts from pole, ahead of Alonso, Webber, Fisichella, Trulli, Heidfeld, Coulthard, Michael, Villeneuve and Barrichello.

Massa will start from eleventh, ahead of Liuzzi, Friesacher, Albers, Monteiro and Karthikeyan, not forgetting the former WilliamsF1 teammates, Ralf and Juan Pablo.

An interesting grid, especially when you consider that the first corner - Ste Devote - is one of the most difficult, as far as race starts are concerned, in F1.

Raikkonen looks good, and is going to be difficult to beat, however both Renaults are right up there.

Webber has done well to put the WilliamsF1 on third, however he and the car have had some dreadful starts this season, hence the recent practice starts at Vallelunga.

Webber will be delighted, or not, to have teammate Heidfeld a couple of spots behind, while it would be wrong to rule out 2004 winner Jarno Trulli.

With no sign of rain this afternoon, we are not going to witness any miracle results, not unless there's a major incident at the start or a driver suffers brain fade during the race.

The good news is, however, that with three hours to go before the race gets underway, even here in Monte Carlo, the place so synonymous with gambling, it would be a brave, or foolish, man who would place all his chips on any one driver.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 22/05/2005
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