Delight and despair for Mercedes-powered team
A McLaren on the front row was an easy bet at Hockenheim, but just as most observers expected the second car to join it Juan Pablo Montoya lost control of his MP4-20 on the final corner of the final lap of the session, and in a moment McLaren had cars at the front and back of the grid for Sunday's German Grand Prix.
Montoyas mistake could prove costly for the silver arrows. Though Kimi Raikkonen had his first troublefree practice and qualifying since Indianapolis, the Finns 1m 14.320s lap was not as far ahead of his closest challenger as some expected. Jenson Button pushed his BAR Honda to 1m 14.759s, while the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella were also in striking distance on 1m 14.904s and 1m 14.927s respectively.
What remains to be seen, of course, is what fuel loads each were carrying. Conventional wisdom suggests that the McLaren and the Renaults are relatively heavy, the BAR not so heavy. The race will tell.
Michael Schumacher had cause to thank Montoya, for the Colombians faux pas lifted the Ferrari driver from sixth to fifth in the line-up on 1m 15.006s, though the suggestion here is that Schumacher may have been running light to gain early track position. Behind him, Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld may be doing the same for BMW Williams, as they maintained this mornings positions with laps of 1m 15.070s and 1m 15.403s respectively.
Takuma Sato was an early pacesetter, going out fifth after his Silverstone mistake where inadvertently killing his engine as he went on to the grid lost him a lap; the Japanese driver pushed round in 1m 15.501s to keep Jarno Trulli and Christian Klien behind him. The Italian posted 1m 15.532s in his Toyota while the Austrian took his Red Bull RB1 round in 1m 15.635s. Team mate David Coulthard will start right behind him on the grid, after lapping in 1m 15.679s. That was a hundredth of a second better than Ralf Schumacher, who recorded 1m 15.689s in his Toyota.
Felipe Massa found his Sauber oversteering too much and didnt better 1m 16.009s, while team mate Jacques Villeneuve had a front wheel locking problem during his 1m 16.012s lap. Peter Saubers cars thus start together on row seven.
Rubens Barrichello was worse off, taking his Ferrari round in 1m 16.230s, clearly running more fuel than his illustrious team mate. Then came both Minardis, as Christijan Albers got his PS05 round in 1m 17.519s to ace new team mate Robert Doornbos who will start 17th after lapping in 1m 18.313s. The session was something of a trial for Jordan. Narain Karthikeyan made a big error running wide in Turn One, and aborted the lap, while Tiago Monteiro remained convinced against all evidence that he had an engine problem on his way to 1m 18.599s. Karthikeyan will thus accompany the desolate Montoya on the back row, the Colombian taking 19th place as he went further, faster before his mistake occurred.
With Button an interloper, as he was at Silverstone, and two Renaults poised to gang up on the lone McLaren at the front, not to mention the world champion on the third row, the German Grand Prix has many ingredients for a great race.