An all-Renault front row in China 30 Sep 2006
The rain in Shanghai on Saturday afternoon exposed the weakness in Ferraris armour, as Renault team mates Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella, together with Michelins other runners, enjoyed a clear performance advantage in a very wet qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix, with the world champion securing pole position.
As Alonso and Fisichella swept all before them in Qualifying 1, heading the McLarens of Pedro de la Rosa and Kimi Raikkonen and Vitantonio Liuzzis Toro Rosso, the Ferraris struggled in 13th and 14th place (Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher), with the Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli (1m 48.894s and 1m 49.08s respectively), Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro in their Spyker MF1s (1m 49.542s and 1m 49.903s) and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Sakon Yamamoto (1m 50.326s and 1m 55.560s) were all eliminated. Monteiro briefly brought out the red flags when his car ground to a halt with mechanical problems, while Yamamoto spun in a slippery Turn 14.
Williams team mates Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, Rubens Barrichello in the Honda and McLarens Kimi Raikkonen all had similar moments.
Ferrari struggled again in Qualifying 2, Schumacher only grabbing ninth place right at the end as Alonso and Fisichella again headed Hondas Jenson Button and Nick Heidfeld in the BMW Sauber. This time Toro Rossos Scott Speed (1m 45.851s), David Coulthard in the Red Bull (1m 45.968s), Massa (1m 45.970s), Liuzzi (1m 46.172s), Webber (1m 46.413s) and Rosberg (1m 47.419s) were eliminated.
That left Alonso, Fisichella, Button, Heidfeld, De la Rosa, Barrichello, BMW Saubers Robert Kubica, Raikkonen, Schumacher and an impressive Robert Doornbos in the Red Bull to fight it out for the top 10 positions. It was a foregone conclusion that the blue cars would dominate and they duly did, Alonso taking a much-needed pole position with 1m 44.360s as Fisichella backed him up with 1m 44.992s, despite running over one of the mirrors from Raikkonens McLaren which had fallen off the silver car. Barrichello and Button were joint third, sharing 1m 45.503s, and Raikkonen took fifth on 1m 45.754s.
Schumacher mustered 1m 45.775s for sixth, beating spinner De la Rosa (1m 45.877s), Heidfeld and Kubica (1m 46.053s and 1m 46.632s) and Doornbos (1m 48.021s.
Engine-change penalties dropped Massa from 13th to 21st and Sato from 21st to 22nd on the provisional grid, leaving Speed, Coulthard, Liuzzi, Webber, Rosberg, Schumacher Jnr, Trulli, Albers, Monteiro and Yamamoto to take the intervening places.
With more rain likely on Sunday, Ferrari and Bridgestone will have their work cut out to contain the Renault-Michelin challenge.