Schumacher up front again as BAR lead the chase
Michael Schumacher seems to have got the taste for starting from pole position. Having taken his 61st recently in Germany, he did it again at the Hungaroring, the only track that can challenge Monte Carlo as far as difficulty in overtaking is concerned.
Changing weather conditions - it got pretty cool at one stage, but the forecast rain held off until the start of the F3000 race - and the generally slippery and bumpy nature of the track made life difficult for everyone, but the champion made the best of it all and his 1m 19.146s lap was more than good enough.
Pre-qualifying had belonged to Rubens Barrichello, who slipped in a superb lap of 1m 18.436s, but though he beat Schumachers sector one time, as the last man to run in qualifying, he couldnt match his sector two and three figures. Nevertheless, 1m 19.323s was sufficient to sweep the BAR duo of Takuma Sato and Jenson Button off the front row. For a few minutes things looked promising for the Anglo-Japanese team as first Button took fastest time away from Fernando Alonso with a lap of 1m 19.700s and then Sato shaved that with 1m 19.693s. But then came the red tide, and that was that.
Nevertheless, its an interesting grid behind the Ferraris, with Sato minutely upstaging Button and, crucially, getting to start on the cleaner side of the track. Behind them, Alonsos 1m 19.996s lap remained sufficient to put the 2003 winners Renault fifth, with Antonio Pizzonia for company. The Williams driver has really had the bit between his teeth this weekend, and pulled out all the stops to beat team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya. The Brazilian lapped in 1m 20.170s, making a bit of a hash of sector two, while the Colombians lap was also weak in that sector as he recorded 1m 20.199s for seventh.
Another surprise came in the form of Giancarlo Fisichella, who proclaimed his Sauber transformed after it spent all Friday understeering, and grabbed eighth with 1m 20.324s to edge Jarno Trulli and Kimi Raikkonen down the grid. The Italians lap was spoiled by a messy arrival at, and negotiation of, the top chicane, and the aviating Renault stopped the clocks in 1m 20.411s. The Finns McLaren lacked its Hockenheim bite, leaving him to be satisfied with 1m 20.570s.
Mark Webber took his Jaguar to 11th on 1m 20.730s, underlining the R5s liking for this type of circuit, and that was enough to resist David Coulthards push to 1m 20.897s.
After the speed they had shown so far this weekend Toyota were a little disappointed with Olivier Panis down in 13th on 1m 21.068s and Ricardo Zonta in 15th on 1m 21.135s, but this was nonetheless still an improvement. Christian Klien hung on to Webber as best he could to take 14th place on 1m 21.118s, and Nick Heidfeld and Giorgio Pantano had better laps spoiled by their Jordans evident dislike of Turn 13, where the former oversteered and the latter understeered at critical moments. They finished 16th and 17th respectively on 1m 22.180s and 1m 22.356s.
Zsolt Baumgartner was delighted to win the Minardi battle on his homeground, just beating Gianmaria Bruni with 1m 24.329s to 1m 24.679s after the Italian had a major lock-up into Turn One.
Finally, Felipe Massa elected to save tyres and not go out for qualifying, after his Sauber broke its engine this morning. The frustrated Brazilian lapped third fastest in pre-qualifying, and like Fisichella was delighted with the cars transformation.
The weather is expected to improve tomorrow, but the pattern of the race already has a distinctly familiar look to it.