Record 66th pole for Schumacher 22 Apr 2006
Michael Schumacher and Ferrari gave their fans what they wanted in qualifying for the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola this afternoon, taking pole position and thus breaking the record he held jointly with the late Ayrton Senna.
However, the final 20minute shootout was a closerun thing with Jenson Button putting his Honda on the front row close to the end of the session. On the lap that Schumacher stopped the clocks in 1m 22.795s, Button banged in a 1m 22.988s to push aside team mate Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian subsequently lapped his RA106 in 1m 23.22s to take third place away from Ferraris Felipe Massa. The younger Brazilian had an offcourse moment exiting the Variante Alta chicane, but made amends with 1m 23.702s.
What of Fernando Alonso? It may be that Renault opted for a high fuel load, for the Spaniard could only muster 1m 23.709s for fifth, with Ralf Schumacher harrying him with 1m 23.772s for Toyota.
The McLarens may also be fuelheavy. Juan Pablo Montoya was seventh in the spare MP21 on 1m 2.021s, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 2.158s. Finally, Jarno Trulli did 1m 2.172s for Toyota, with Mark Webber completing the top 10 for Williams Cosworth in 1m 2.795s.
The first 15 minutes weeded out Red Bulls Christian Klien (1m 25.10s), Toro Rossos Scott Speed (1m 25.37s), the Midlands of Tiago Monteiro (1m 26.820s) and Christijan Albers (who spun before lapping in 1m 27.088s), and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato (1m 27.609s) and Yuji Ide (1m 29.282s). Sato in particular did a good job, but Ide, who went off briefly in Turn 10, only improved marginally on his morning best.
The second 15 minutes accounted for Giancarlo Fisichella in his Renault with a lap of 1m 23.771s, which was mere fractions off Rubens Barrichello and Juan Pablo Montoya who tied on 1m 23.760s, the BMW Saubers of Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld (1m 23.887s and 1m 2.129s), Nico Rosberg (1m 23.966s) in the spare Williams, Red Bulls David Coulthard (1m 2.101) and Tonio Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso (1m 2.520s). The main drama this time concerned Heidfeld, who lost control at Rivazza and crashed into the tyre wall to the detriment of its front suspension and wing.
That left Michael Schumacher at the top of the times with a dramatic lap of 1m 22.579s, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (1m 23.190s), Ralf Schumacher (1m 23.565s), Felipe Massa (1m 23.595s), Mark Webber (1m 23.718s), Jarno Trulli (1m 23.727), Fernando Alonso (1m 23.73s), Jenson Button (1m 23.79s), Barrichello (1m 23.760s) and Montoya (1m 23.760s).
Now, of course, it will all come down to individual race strategies and tyre performance, but Schumacher and Bridgestone seem quietly confident that they have turned a corner.