Rubens saves the day for Ferrari
For a while it seemed that there might not be a flash of red at the front of the grid for the Brazilian Grand Prix, but as the last runner of the session local hero Rubens Barrichello soon put that right.
As the Brazilian began his qualifying lap, Juan Pablo Montoya had narrowly edged Kimi Raikkonen from pole position, lapping his Williams in 1m 10.850s compared to the McLaren Mercedes drivers 1m 10.892s. Behind them, Felipe Massa had exploded on to the second row with 1m 10.922s, to the intense delight of the partisan crowd, and of course team owner Peter Sauber.
But then came Barrichello, surgically structuring his lap to stop the clocks in 1m 10.646s. It was the result everyone had come to see, and their cheers drowned out the scream of the Ferrari V10.
But if Barrichello was the last man to run, what had happened to team mate Michael Schumacher?
After his accident in Turn Six this morning, the damage to the champions car had been so great that there was no way Ferrari could install the engine in the spare F2004, so Michael had to accept a 10 place grid penalty even before his qualifying lap in an unfamiliar chassis yielded only the eighth fastest time of 1m 11.386s. With the penalty levied, he will actually start 18th, ahead of the Minardi duo of Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni. The Hungarian lapped his PS04 in 1m 13.550s, but the Italian never got a run after encountering mechanical problems.
Fifth and sixth on the grid are the BARs of Jenson Button and Takuma Sato, the Englishman just acing the Japanese with 1m 11.092s to 1m 11.120s. Ralf Schumacher was also close, with 1m 11.131s for seventh.
Behind them came Michael, then Fernando Alonso on 1m 11.454s for Renault and his former team-mate Jarno Trulli with 1m 11.483s for Toyota. With Schumacher being demoted, Giancarlo Fisichellas 1m 11.571s in a Sauber that was carrying more fuel than its sister car left the Italian to complete the top 10.
Mark Webber and David Coulthard will start 11th and 12th, the Jaguar driver with 1m 11.665s and the Scot with 1m 11.750s. Jacques Villeneuve is 13th overall on 1m 11.836s and Ricardo Zonta completed the sub 1m 12s runners with 1m 11.974s.
Christian Klien took his Jaguar to 1m 12.211s for 15th, and Nick Heidfeld leads the Jordan attack with 1m 12.829s from team-mate Timo Glock on 1m 13.502s.
As confirmation of just how much progress there has been in the past 19 months of Formula One racing, even Baumgartner beat last years pole time of 1m 13.807s set by Barrichello.
Now, of course, Rubinho has to turn that into his first victory in front of his fellow countrymen, after 10 years of failing to finish his home race. But there were clearly some different fuel strategies in play today, and with heavy rain still forecast for tomorrow, anything could happen.