'Quick Nick' finds qualifying form for home race
First it seemed that Toyota were on course for their first pole position, then Mark Webber. But in the end it was Nick Heidfeld - one of the stars of Monaco - who pushed his Williams into the prime starting slot for Sundays Grand Prix of Europe.
And as Heidfeld secured his maiden Formula One pole, as expected, the times behind him at the top were close, with less than a second covering the first five, and 1.5s covering the top 10.
After Takuma Sato, Jenson Button and David Coulthard had set the early pace, Jarno Trulli took his Toyota round in 1m 30.700s, and there the times seemed to stagnate. Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher, starting 13th and 14th respectively in qualifying, moved temporarily up to second and third slots with 1m 31.249s and 1m 31.585s for Ferrari. The Brazilian lost time running wide into the first corner, so given that he is still ahead of the champion, one might conclude that Michael as usual has plenty of fuel aboard.
The red cars were pushed down the order as Ralf Schumacher lapped his Toyota in 1m 31.392s, and then Juan Pablo Montoya recorded 1m 30.890s in his McLaren. Fernando Alonsos effort for Renault yielded 1m 31.056s, and then Mark Webber pushed into premiere position with 1m 30.368s in his Williams. Heidfeld beat that with 1m 30.081s, so all eyes were on the final runner, Monaco winner Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn whirled his McLaren round in 1m 30.197s, good enough for the other front row slot.
So, that left the top 10 as: Heidfeld, Raikkonen, Webber, Trulli, Montoya, Alonso, Barrichello, Schumacher Jnr, Giancarlo Fisichella and Schumacher Snr.
Felipe Massa was happy with 11th place for Sauber on 1m 32.205s. That pushed Coulthard down a place with his 1m 32.553s for Red Bull set as the fourth man to go out. Team mate Tonio Liuzzi was all set for a lap four-tenths of a second faster, but dropped half a second getting the chicane wrong and ended up 14th on 1m 32.642s. He accompanies Jenson Button on the seventh row, the Englishman being disappointed with 1m 32.594s as BAR made their race return. His team mate Sato is 16th overall on 1m 32.925s having been the first man out on the track, and he lines up alongside Jacques Villeneuve, who had a lot of fuel in his Sauber which he lapped in 1m 32.891s.
Tiago Monteiro restored Jordan honour by leading the Jordan-Minardi fight. The Portuguese driver lapped his EJ15 in 1m 35.047s to ward off Patrick Freisachers 1m 35.954s best for Minardi. Narain Karthikeyan managed 1m 36.192s, leaving the last slot on the grid to Christijan Albers, with 1m 36.239s.
So, who has lots of fuel aboard and who doesnt? According to Webber, he has more than Heidfeld, and Trulli has less than Schumacher Jnr. Big brother has more than Rubens, and could pose a serious threat tomorrow if Ferraris form in the middle of the Monaco Grand Prix was anything to go by. Elsewhere, both McLaren drivers look very content, and the Renault men dont look upset, either.
Five teams remain in with a chance of the big prize, and Formula Ones remarkable season continues.