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Fisichella times it to perfection 05 Mar 2005

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005 Patrick Friesacher (AUT) Minardi Cosworth PS04B.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2004M.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 5 March 2005

Rain leaves many big names with it all to do on Sunday

Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella came out on top of Saturday’s first qualifying after the weather threw a giant spanner into many of his rivals’ works. In fact, if you wanted to find different ways to liven up Formula One racing, you couldn’t do much better than take a leaf from Melbourne’s 2005 book.

Prior to the session several teams’ weather forecasts predicted a rain storm after 20 minutes. To begin with the track was merely damp after this morning’s rain, and Christjan Albers shaded Minardi team mate Patrick Friesacher to set fastest time with 1m 49.230s compared to 1m 50.864s. Despite spinning in Turn 12 on his out lap, Narain Karthikeyan then redefined that with 1m 44.357s for Jordan, with team mate Tiago Monteiro moving up to second place with 1m 46.846s.

The session was run in the reverse order of the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix results, so since Jenson Button had been an early retirement in Interlagos he went out fifth and quickly went fastest on 1m 41.512s.

Successively, Nick Heidfeld (1m 39.717s) and Mark Webber (1m 36.717s) improved Button’s time as the conditions improved, with Christian Klien moving temporarily into second place with 1m 37.486s before Jarno Trulli put his Toyota on pole position with 1m 35.270s.

That was followed by a disappointing 1m 38.320s for David Coulthard’s Red Bull (the Scot complaining of poor balance), before Jacques Villeneuve became the first man to switch from intermediate tyres to grooves. That looked like a big mistake when he spun wildly on his out lap, but the former champion just kept the Sauber off the wall and his subsequent 1m 36.984s lap would prove good enough for third place at the time. Then came Giancarlo Fisichella, who rushed his Renault round in 1m 33.171s to beat Trulli for provisional pole when conditions were at their best.

And then the rain arrived. In bucketloads.

The man who suffered most was Sauber’s Felipe Massa, who was crossing the start-finish line to begin his qualifying lap as the rain storm arrived. On his dry tyres he had no chance, and wound up 20th after aborting his run.

Michael Schumacher at least had the chance to switch to wet Bridgestones, but his 1m 57.931s would leave him only 18th in the line-up.

The session was stopped temporarily when Takuma Sato, next up for BAR, crashed in Turn 8 on his out lap, and when running resumed (and conditions had improved marginally), Ralf Schumacher lapped in 1m 51.495s for 17th.

Fernando Alonso pushed to 14th place with 1m 47.708s for Renault, and Rubens Barrichello to 12th for Ferrari, with 1m 45.481s.

That left Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen - first and second for Williams and McLaren in Brazil and now, of course, McLaren team mates - to fight it out as the last runners. The honours went to the Finn with 1m 44.997s to the Colombian’s 1m 45.325s. But that left them only 10th and 11th respectively on the list.

Clearly, today’s events have seriously jeopardised a lot of fancied runners’ chances. Now that the times from both qualifying sessions are aggregated, it follows that problems on one day will hurt you on the other.

With two seconds in hand over Trulli, Fisichella can play with fuel loads tomorrow and still have a great chance of pole, while Webber, Villeneuve, Klien and Coulthard are also looking good. The drivers in real trouble are Raikkonen and Montoya, Barrichello, Alonso, the two Schumachers, Sato and Massa. And with ninth place so far, Indian rookie Narain Karthikeyan finally had some good luck on his side.