Brazilian maintains practice form to edge out champion
There are two Ferraris on the front row of the grid for tomorrows United States Grand Prix, their qualifying form following the general trend of the weekend with Rubens Barrichello having a very slight advantage over team mate Michael Schumacher.
But the difference in their respective lap times of 1m 10.223s and 1m 10.400s may simply be a reflection of the fact that one of them has necessarily to carry a fuel load that is at least one lap heavier than the others (because no team can refuel both cars at once).
Schumachers 335.9 kph top speed and slightly slower mid-sector time suggest that Barrichello, who had very quick sector times and a 338.3 kph top speed, has the slightly better set-up. Time will tell. The unusual character of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway plays a key part in the set-ups of the cars, thanks to the contradictory requirements of low downforce and low drag for the long straights, and high downforce for the tricky infield.
Qualifying was a hard-fought battle. After the minnows, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen each held pole, but an electronic steering wheel problem stymied Jarno Trullis effort, leaving the unhappy Italian at the back of the grid after he failed to record a lap time. Then came Michael Schumacher, whose time withstood Jenson Buttons 1m 10.820s challenge to the tune of a comfortable four-tenths of a second. Brother Ralfs 1m 11.026s run was no problem either, and nor was Juan Pablo Montoyas 1m 11.062s. But Takuma Sato caused a bit of stir by jumping temporarily up to second place with 1m 10.601s before Barrichello made the final run of the day. The Brazilian kept things clean and tidy and duly edged on to pole position by 0.177s.
Several drivers starting relatively far back remain optimistic, so one has to assume that some may be running long first stints in two-stop strategies. Kimi Raikkonen is seventh on the grid for McLaren with 1m 11.137s, ahead of Olivier Panis (1m 11.167s) and Fernando Alonso (1m 11.185s), while Webbers 1m 11.286s was a 10th place fillip for Jaguar on Fords home ground. Cristiano da Matta completed the runners in the 1m 11s bracket with 1m 11.691s, while David Coulthard just failed to join it with 1m 12.026s. That left Christian Klien to head the Saubers of Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa, the Jaguar driver lapping in 1m 12.170s to the Italians 1m 12.470s and the Brazilians 1m 12.721s.
Nick Heidfeld wasnt far behind his old team with 1m 13.147s for Jordan, with team mate Giorgio Pantano as usual keeping him honest with 1m 13.375s. Gianmaria Bruni got the jump on Minardi partner Zsolt Baumgartner this time, 1m 14.010s to 1m 14.812s.
Its a long haul down to the first corner, and with Takuma Sato so close to them neither Ferrari driver can afford to relax when the red lights go out a noon tomorrow.