Finn untouchable as Schumacher makes rare error
McLarens Kimi Raikkonen will start todays San Marino Grand Prix from pole position after narrowly beating Fernando Alonso to the honours in Sunday morning's final qualifying at Imola.
In a session run on a slightly damp track which offered only one dry line, the Finn ousted the Spaniard by lapping in 1m 22.994s for a combined time of 2m 42.880s. Alonsos 1m 23.552s, which had previously stood as the best lap of the session, gave him his combined time of 2m 43.441s.
The result was a slight disappointment for Jenson Button who had to be content with third fastest time for BAR. This, however, was mainly a consequence of his problems in Bahrain giving him an early starting slot for first qualifying when the track was not at its best. He lapped in 1m 23.641s so is clearly in competitive state given the uncertainty over individual fuel loads, and that brought him up to third place on 2m 44.105s. As BAR had hoped, this was enough to push their man ahead of Mark Webber, who was nevertheless a strong fourth for Williams on 2m 44.511s.
Jarno Trulli and Takuma Sato share the third row, with 2m 44.518s and 2m 44.658s respectively, and they were followed by Alexander Wurz whose racing return yielded 2m 44.689s, and Felipe Massa on 2m 44.930s. The Sauber driver, however, must start 10 places further back after his engine change on Friday.
Nick Heidfeld was ninth with 2m 45.196s, and Rubens Barrichello was disappointed with 2m 45.243s for Ferrari.
Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve were next, with times of 2m 45.416s and 2m 46.259s respectively, while Giancarlo Fisichella improved a little after his Friday disaster to annex 13th fastest time of 2m 46.710s.
And what of Michael Schumacher, who so desperately needs to get his title campaign underway here on Ferraris home ground this weekend? The morning was a disaster for the champion. His times were already slower than Buttons when he slid off the road in the second Rivazza corner, sliding through the gravel and recording only 2m 47.244s. The track was slippery off line there, as Massa also found, and he just pushed a bit too hard.
David Coulthard is the quicker Red Bull but the gap to rookie team mate Tonio Liuzzi was only 0.085s and the Italian was quicker in this session. They were 15th and 16th, with 2m 48.070s and 2m 48.155s respectively.
Narain Karthikeyan was comfortably the faster Jordan driver with 2m 52.099s, with team mate Tiago Monteiro 18th on 2m 54.252s. Patrick Friesacher was 19th for Minardi, but team mate Christijan Albers fell foul of the damp at Variante Alta and took off his PS05s front wing, so whereas Friesachers time was 2m 57.048s, Albers was 1m 25.921s from yesterday.
With Massa dropping back to 18th, everyone between eighth and 18th places moves up one, and the scene is set for a fantastic race as Raikkonen, Alonso, Button and Webber slog it out, and Schumacher and Massa try to fight through from the back.