Alonso on pole in France 02 Jul 2005
Fernando Alonso gave Renault's thousands of homeland fans just what they came to Magny-Cours to see by taking his second consecutive pole position for the French Grand Prix this afternoon, in a qualifying session run in markedly cooler conditions than expected
Though the ambient temperature steadfastly remained five degrees below the expected high of 27 degrees Celsius, Michelin's tyres still had the edge over Bridgestone's as Alonso, the 10th man to venture out, put in an unbeatable lap time of 1m 14.412s. Jarno Trulli underlined Toyota's and Michelins' form with the second fastest time of 1m 14.512s - just sufficient to edge out Kimi Raikkonen's 1m 14.559s for McLaren. The Finn, however, drops 10 places on the grid because of his Mercedes engine change yesterday afternoon, so he will start the race in 13th.
Which is very good news for Michael Schumacher, the world champion moving up to P3 from what was fourth after qualifying after he had to fight his Ferrari around to record a time of 1m 14.572s. As the winner of the US Grand Prix the German was the last man out and was looking competitive until his car lost grip in the final sector. The same problem afflicted team mate Rubens Barrichello, who was sixth overall on 1m 14.832s after being ahead of Alonso over the first two sectors. He will start fifth, right behind Takuma Sato, who was generally adjudged to have a low fuel load in his BAR as he recorded 1m 14.655s.
Behind Barrichello, Giancarlo Fisichella was disappointed to lose his morning practice advantage over Alonso after a best lap of 1m 14.887s leaves him sixth on the grid.
Jenson Button in the second BAR was eighth overall and will start seventh on the grid with 1m 15.051s, while Juan Pablo Montoya will be the leading McLaren driver. The Colombian was the sixth man out, which accounts for some of the deficit to the leaders in his time of 1m 15.406s.
Raikkonen's penalty was good news for Sauber, which qualified both Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve in the top ten for the first time this season. They lapped in 1m 15.566s and 1m 15.699s respectively. The French-Canadian was particularly happy with his performance as he is carrying more fuel than his team mate.
Ralf Schumacher should have been higher than 11th on the grid, but made an error in the hairpin while running in the unenviable position of first man out on the track. The German's lap of 1m 15.771s was just enough to keep Mark Webber at bay in the leading Williams as the Australian managed 1m 15.885s.
Alongside Raikkonen on the grid will be Nick Heidfeld, who recorded 1m 16.207s in the second Williams FW27. Then come the Red Bulls, with team leader David Coulthard narrowly fending off Christian Klien, 1m 16.434s to 1m 16.547s.
The Minardis and Jordans were mixed up together, with Narain Karthikeyan 17th on 1m 17.857s and Patrick Friesacher showing well for 1m 17.960s in the leading Minardi PS05. Tiago Monteiro was 19th on 1m 18.047s and Christijan Albers did well to catch a big slide in the final sector in his Minardi which left him last on 1m 18.335s.
As far as making any meaningful predictions about race form, it is almost impossible since so much here depends on fuel load. Suffice it to say, however, that Renault and Ferrari are confident, and both are grateful that situations beyond the team's control have hamstrung McLaren, at least as far as qualifying is concerned. Expect Raikkonen and Montoya to fly once the red lights go out tomorrow afternoon.