Raikkonen beats Michael to Monza pole 09 Sep 2006
And Alonso only fifth after puncture drama
Just two thousandths of a second separated the men that many perceive to be the present and the future for Ferrari at Monza on Saturday afternoon, as they fought for pole position.
Felipe Massa had made most of the running in Q3 and Q2, but at the end of Q1 team mate Michael Schumacher appeared to have done enough to secure yet another pole position, in front of the adoring tifosi.
But just as everyone was preparing to celebrate, Kimi Raikkonens McLaren came flying out of the Parabolica, to eclipse Schumachers lap of 1m 21.486s with 1m 21.484s. It could not have been choreographed better.
The two of them were in turn just ahead of fleet Nick Heidfeld, who admitted that he was surprised to push his BMW Sauber into third slot with 1m 21.653s, putting Massa back to fourth on 1m 21.704s.
Once again Fernando Alonso had to get used to fifth place, but the Renault had pace. The Spaniard was unlucky to pick up debris after overshooting the first chicane having been short-braked a little by one of the Ferraris. The result was a right-rear puncture and a slow lap crawling back to the pits on the Michelins sidewalls. The flying rubber damaged the bodywork, so by the time the Renault went back out it was slightly less than optimised. Alonso then made one very quick stop before blasting into a warm-up lap that he completed with a second to spare before the chequered flag fell. As a result he was able to hoist himself from eighth to fifth with a lap of 1m 21.704s. Hell be a threat on Sunday.
Hondas Jenson Button was sixth with 1m 22.011s, heading the second BMW of Robert Kubica (1m 22.258s), Pedro de la Rosas McLaren (1m 22.280s), Rubens Barrichello (1m 22.787s) for Honda and Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 23.175s).
Button only just made it through to Q3 after getting his good Q2 lap in right at the end. That bumped Toyotas Jarno Trulli, and you had to feel sorry for the Italian. He was only seven-tenths of a second off fastest man Massa (1m 21.924s to 1m 21.225s), such was the closeness of the times, but there were nine cars between them so he was left 11th ahead of Williams Nico Rosberg (1m 22.203s), Toyota team mate Ralf Schumacher (1m 22.280s), Red Bulls David Coulthard (1m 22.589s), Toro Rossos Scott Speed (1m 23.165s) and Christian Klien, whose Red Bull was hors de combat for the session after a gaffe at the end of Q1. He had beaten Tonio Liuzzi right at the end of that original session, and then killed the Italians chance of doing better than 17th place and 1m 23.043s by spinning on the exit to the second chicane and bringing out yellow flags.
Behind the Toro Rosso pilot, Christijan Albers lapped his Midland in 1m 23.116s to beat Williams Mark Webber (1m 23.341s), Midlands Tiago Monteiro (1m 23.920s), Takuma Sato (1m 24.289s) and team mate Sakon Yamamoto, whose Super Aguri threw the tread of its left rear Bridgestone just after he had lapped it in 1m 26.001s. The session was red flagged for 10 minutes as the debris was cleared.
The scene is thus set for a fantastic race on Sunday, with Raikkonen and Schumacher both commenting that it could well come down to whose tyres - Michelin or Bridgestone - last longer, and Alonso battling to fight his way up the order as the championship chase gets ever tougher.