Renault-Honda front row at Sepang 18 Mar 2006
Giancarlo Fisichella has pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Jenson Button alongside him and the Williams of Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber behind them on the grid.
But what does this really mean, when the McLarens of Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonsos Renault were all significantly slower during this afternoons final 20-minute session?
It means that different people ran different fuel loads, and that as usual the true picture as far as performance is concerned must wait until the race.
For the record, Fisichella lapped in 1m 33.840s; Button in 1m 33.986s (having set the first sub-1m 34s lap in the second session of qualifying and the weekends fastest time overall of 1m 33.527s); Rosberg 1m 34.626s and Webber 1m 34.672s.
What can be said is that Rosberg continued to impress, regardless of how light (or otherwise) his Williams was, and that the FW28 looks like a pretty good car. One of the duo will have to stop at least one lap sooner than the other (to avoid traffic in the pit), so it will be fascinating to see which of them was running heavier.
Michael Schumacher actually split the Williamses, with 1m 34.668s, but drops 10 places following his an engine change on his Ferrari after this mornings practice.
The fact that Montoya and Raikkonen lapped in 1m 34.916s and 1m 34.983s respectively suggests both have a lot of fuel aboard, and the same thing applies to them about one having to stop at least a lap earlier than the other.
Alonso was slower still, with 1m 35.747s, with 1m 33.997s, but that was at least partly the result of a fuel rig problem which meant he did not start the final session with his intended fuel load. His 1m 33.997s lap in the second session gives more of a clue as to what his car is really capable of.
Christian Klien made it all the way through and the Red Bull RB2s looked fast when running without fuel earlier on, but 1m 38.715s with fuel left the Austrian ninth ahead of Ralf Schumacher, who made it through to the top 10 run-off despite his Toyota blowing its engine shortly after he had lapped in 1m 34.586s in the second session.
The second session weeded out Red Bulls David Coulthard and Hondas Rubens Barrichello (both of whom will lose 10 places on the grid following engine changes) after they lapped in 1m 34.614s and 1m 34.683s respectively, Jarno Trulli who took his Toyota to 1m 34.702s, the BMW Saubers of Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld (1m 34.752s and 1m 34.783s), and Felipe Massa who made it through the first session with 1m 35.091s and then sat out that one to conserve the new Ferrari engine that will also lose him 10 grid places.
Villeneuve complained of lack of grip, while Heidfeld was angry to be baulked by Coulthard.
Scott Speed headed those ejected after the first session, with a lap of 1m 36.297s in his Toro Rosso. Team mate Tonio Liuzzi was next on 1m 36.581s after the team misjudged his final run with new tyres. If you dont cross the line before the 15 minutes is up, in either of the preliminary sessions, any improvement doesnt count. The teams statement headed DISAPPOINTING said it all.
Christijan Albers pipped Midland team mate Tiago Monteiro, 1m 37.426s to 1m 37.819s, leaving Takuma Sato (1m 39.011s) and Yuji Ide (1m 40.720s) in 21st and 22nd positions for Super Aguri.
The true grid wont be published until Sunday morning, and there are numerous complications in deciding where the drivers with engine changes will ultimately be placed for the start of the eighth Malaysian Grand Prix.