Second successive Canada pole for Schumacher Jnr
Ralf Schumacher edges Jenson Button for Williams' first pole of the 2004 season in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.
The first sign of a Williams resurgence came in this afternoons pre-qualifying session, when the German just shaded team mate Juan Pablo Montoya for the fastest time, 1m 12.441s to 1m 12.746s. Fernando Alonso, Takuma Sato, Jarno Trulli, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella rounded out the top 10.
That was expected to change once a race level of fuel was added for qualifying proper, but such expectations were upset.
It was business as usual initially. Rubens Barrichello and then Michael Schumacher set the fastest times (1m 13.595s and 1m 13.355s) for Ferrari, but then Button, almost certainly running less fuel, pushed ahead with a seemingly remarkable 1m 12.341s. That teed things up nicely for Satos effort. In the first sector he was quicker than his BAR team mate, but then he dropped behind again but was still comfortably second when something appeared to fall off his car in the final corner, pitching him into a spin. To applause he spun the car back in the right direction and completed the lap in 1m 17.004s, enough to take 17th on the grid ahead of Zsolt Baumgartners Minardi on 1m 17.064s. It also left him ahead of Felipe Massa, whose Sauber developed a left rear puncture on its out lap, and Gianmaria Bruni whose Minardi broke down on its out lap.
Buttons provisional pole resisted the efforts of both Renault drivers. Trulli pushed up to second place with 1m 13.023s, and Alonso to fourth on 1m 13.308s, and then Montoya split them with 1m 13.072s. Then out came Ralf Schumacher, who had had nothing but mechanical problems (mainly centred around his brakes) all weekend. The result was the Germans second consecutive pole here, with 1m 12.275s a handy chunk faster than last years 1m 15.529s.
Thus we have a rather unusual grid: Schumacher Jnr and Button, Trulli and Montoya, and Alonso and Michael Schumacher. Behind then come Barrichello (1m 13.562s), the McLarens of Raikkonen and Coulthard (1m 13.595s and 1m 13.681s) and Christian Kliens Jaguar (1m 14.532s.),
Saubers Giancarlo Fisichella was cock-a-hoop with 11th in 1m 14.674s given the high fuel load he was carrying, while at Toyota Cristiano da Matta narrowly shaded Olivier Panis, 1m 14.851s to 1m 14.891s between team-mates it cant get much closer than that. Mark Webber had a frustrating run in the Jaguar, failing to match team mate Klien and then locking a wheel under braking for the chicane. He lapped in 1m 15.148s to head the Jordans of Nick Heidfeld (1m 15.321s) and Timo Glock, whose 1m 16.323s leaves him 16th on his Grand Prix debut.
Of course, a lot will depend on what fuel loads everyone is carrying, and how their brakes stand the pace tomorrow afternoon, but with Michael Schumacher only sixth on the grid in a Ferrari that does not look quite so crisp here as it has everywhere else, the Canadian Grand Prix has all the makings of a real cracker.