An Alonso-Raikkonen front row 10 Jun 2006
It began with a shock for Jenson Buttons home fans and ended with rapid-fire drama, as qualifying at Silverstone this afternoon saw Renaults Fernando Alonso take pole position from McLarens Kimi Raikkonen and the Ferraris - and the Englishman in his Honda left back in 19th place after getting knocked out in the first 15-minute round.
It was one of the most disastrous sessions for the local hero, who found himself sitting in the pits as David Coulthard, Tiago Monteiro and Christian Klien shoved him remorselessly down the order on fresher rubber. His lap of 1m 23.27s was achieved on old tyres as others fitted newer tyres to go quicker. Only the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato (1m 26.158s) and Franck Montagny (1m 26.316s), plus Jarno Trullis Toyota whose engine expired in the pits leaving him without a time, will start behind him.
Mark Webber also found himself booted out, after taking his Williams round in 1m 23.129s, a little quicker than Christijan Albers who managed 1m 23.210s for Midland.
The second session passed without incident, and accounted for Coulthard (1m 21.2s)- who was less than happy with Juan Pablo Montoya, whom he suggested had baulked him -, Nico Rosberg (1m 21.567s), Tonio Liuzzi (1m 21.699s), Christian Klien (1m 21.990s), Scott Speed (1m 22.076s) and Monteiro (1m 22.707s. They will start in positions 11 to 16.
That left the Renaults, the Ferraris, the McLarens, the BMW Saubers, Ralf Schumachers Toyota and Rubens Barrichellos Honda to slog it out in the final top-10 shootout. Initially, once all the runs to burn off fuel had been done, Michael Schumacher set the pace as Alonso all but matched him.
On the first run I made a little mistake in the last sector, ; the champion admitted, and they told me on the radio that we were second to Michael but that it was very close. I thought maybe I had lost pole because of this mistake but we got a second chance on the second set, it was a normal lap with no mistakes, so the fourth consecutive pole is a fantastic moment us. ;
That second lap yielded 1m 20.253s, but just as it seemed that Schumachers 1m 20.57s best would still be good enough for the other front row slot, Raikkonen came flying round with 1m 20.397s. The Finn had pitted late for new tyres and finished his out lap literally with two seconds to spare before the flag.
Alongside Schumacher is team mate Felipe Massa with 1m 20.76s, which pushed Giancarlo Fisichella down to fifth with his 1m 20.919s best. Barrichello was another to stage a late improvement, jumping to sixth with 1m 20.93s.
Schumacher Jnrs 1m 21.073s was good enough for seventh for Toyota, ahead of Juan Pablo Montoyas McLaren on 1m 21.107s. The two BMW Saubers will share row five, after Nick Heidfeld lapped his F1.06 in 1m 21.329s and Jacques Villeneuve his in 1m 21.599s.
Once again the weather conditions played a key role. There was more rubber on the track so handling balance improved in general, but the key to a fast time this afternoon was sorting the car to cope with the wind that has been a factor all weekend. In the end, Renault did that better, but McLaren and Ferrari will certainly be a threat to the blue cars tomorrow afternoon.
At the other end of the grid, Sato will drop to the back row on Sunday thanks to an engine change following his morning practice shunt in the Super Aguri.
After the session stewards investigated the Coulthard-Montoya incident and decided no further action was necessary.