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Surprise German pole for Raikkonen 29 Jul 2006

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 29 July 2006 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 29 July 2006 Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 29 July 2006 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 29 July 2006 Super Aguri F1 SA06 nosecone.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Hockenheim, Germany, 29 July 2006

Kimi Raikkonen repeated his 2005 qualifying position for McLaren at Hockenheim on Saturday afternoon, pushing his MP4-21 round in 1m 14.070s when it mattered to beat Michael Schumacher. But with Felipe Massa third, lapping in 1m 14.569s compared to his team leader’s 1m 14.205s, Ferrari look very threatening despite too much oversteer in the final session, and everything will depend on fuel loads on Sunday.

At Renault, they had better have a lot on board, with Giancarlo Fisichella only fifth on 1m 14.894s and world champion Fernando Alonso looking lost in seventh on 1m 15.282s, and unhappy after Schumacher pulled across him as they exited the pits at one stage.

An even bigger surprise was Jenson Button’s upturn in fortune for Honda, with the fourth-fastest lap of 1m 14.862s, but again the race will tell the real story of pit-stop strategy.

Ralf Schumacher survived driving into Pedro de la Rosa’s McLaren and puncturing the Spaniard’s right-rear tyre, and then nearly driving out of the Toyota pit into the side of Button, who had to take avoiding action, and was eighth with 1m 15.923s ahead of De la Rosa on 1m 15.936s and Red Bull’s David Coulthard on 1m 16.326s.

Session two had seen Schumacher fastest on 1m 13.778s from Massa (1m 14.094s) and Button (1m 14.378s and, when he recorded it, the fastest time thus far over the weekend) and weeded out Williams’ Mark Webber, who just missed out with 1m 15.094s, Christian Klien with 1m 15.141s for Red Bull, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli with 1m 15.150s (and 10 grid places to lose after his morning engine change), Jacques Villeneuve with 1m 15.329s for BMW Sauber, Williams’ Nico Rosberg with 1m 15.380s and Nick Heidfeld in the second F1.06 with 1m 15.397s.

The first session had been a disaster for Toro Rosso. Scott Speed had an accident in Turn 1 that really began in Turn 17, as his STR01 bounced down the grass opposite the pits before spinning and clobbering the inside wall. Then Tonio Liuzzi was unable to squeeze any more out of the car and had to settle for 17th fastest time of 1m 16.399s.

Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro were out too for Midland, with 1m 17.093s and 1m 17.836s respectively. Albers, of course, will lose ten grid places because of his engine change.

Super Aguri had high hopes of getting through Q1 for the first time, but though Takuma Sato did a fine job with 1m 17.185s, splitting the Williams, it wasn’t enough. Sakon Yamamoto did well to get 1m 20.444s out of the SA05 spare chassis, to which he reverted after his SA06 was too badly damaged to be repaired in time following his accident late in the morning’s final practice.

On paper, then, Ferrari look set for a strong run tomorrow, and as in Indianapolis, Fernando Alonso has a lot to do to safeguard his championship lead.