McLaren misfortune plays into Alonso's hands
Kimi Raikkonen was fastest around Monza during qualifying on Saturday afternoon - and will start the Italian Grand Prix 11th.
As we reported after practice, the unfortunate Finn did indeed have an engine change on his McLaren, hence the relegation. Small wonder there were many long faces in the teams garage, especially after all the long hours the engineers and mechanics have spent on the MP4-20s so far this weekend.
McLaren will start from pole, however, courtesy of Juan Pablo Montoya, who had lapped his sister car in 1m 21.054s compared to Raikkonens subsequent 1m 20.878s.
These times were not as far ahead of other challengers as might have been expected, but that may well be explained by disparities in selected fuel strategies.
Fernando Alonso was third fastest for Renault on 1m 21.19s, his time narrowly edging Jenson Button down from what had been the fastest time of 1m 21.69s. That in turn had displaced BARs other driver, Takuma Sato, whose 1m 21.477s best had been the quickest for half the session. Giancarlo Fisichella should also have been in there, but made two key errors, one at the first chicane the other in the first Lesmo, and thus was only ninth overall on 1m 22.068s. He was separated from Sato by Jarno Trulli, who pushed up to sixth with 1m 21.640s, and the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, which many believed to have run light on their way to respective laps of 1m 21.721s and 1m 21.962s respectively.
Ralf Schumacher improved his game for 10th in 1m 22.266s, while David Coulthard was 11th for Red Bull in 1m 22.04s. That was enough to displace team mate Christian Klien (1m 22.52s) and Jacques Villeneuve (1m 22.56s). After all the promise shown so far this weekend, Mark Webber could only muster 1m 22.560s for 14th place in his Williams. Stand-in team mate Antonio Pizzonia struggled in his first FW27 drive for three months on his way to 1m 2.291s, and fellow Brazilian Felipe Massa likewise suffered from being one of the first three runners in the session, his 1m 2.060s allowing him to separate the Williams racers.
Tiago Monteiro was comfortably ahead of Jordan team mate Narain Kartheyan as he was running the newer EJ15B. While the Portuguese driver lapped in 1m 24.666s, the Indian managed 1m 25.859s. Robert Doornbos got his Minardi PS05 between them with 1m 24.904s, but an over-adventurous attack in one of the Lesmos delayed Christijan Albers and left him last on 1m 26.964s.
Taking Raikkonens relegation into account, the grid order will be: Montoya, Alonso; Button, Sato; Trulli, Schumacher Snr; Barrichello, Fisichella; Schumacher Jnr, Coulthard; Raikkonen, Villeneuve, etc. While one McLaren driver starts in the best place, their championship challenger will have his work cut out tomorrow.