FRENCH GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING SESSION 1 REPORT

Fernando on the pole

Fernando Alonso, French GP 2005

Fernando Alonso, French GP 2005 

 © The Cahier Archive

Fernando Alonso was able to overcome an early qualifying run to grab pole position for the French Grand Prix for the home team Renault. The Spaniard ran 10th in the session and took two-tenths of the pole, which had been set by Takuma Sato, and then had to sit and watch 10 other cars running. Several looked to be ahead but at the of the laps they had all faded and Alonso held on to pole with a tenth of a second in hand ahead of Jarno Trulli's Toyota. Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest, a tiny margin behind Trulli, but the McLaren driver will have to take a hit of 10 places on the grid on Sunday.

"It was the worst start possible for the weekend," said Raikkonen, "but we are in a strong position with the car. We can score points. It really depends on what fuel loads the other teams have on board."

And that was the question, as it is at every Formula 1 race these days. Who is running with what fuel load? What does it all mean?

The Ferraris did not really look very good during practice, being much less stable through the corners than the other leading cars. Michael can juggle a car better than most but there is only so much one can do when up against the likes of Raikkonen and Alonso in good cars and Michael did a good job, setting the fourth fastest time of the session which would become the third position on the grid on Sunday. But the big question was not whether Michael could do it for one lap but rather what he could achieve lap after lap after lap.

Michael seemed to think that he could win on Sunday but that might have been a vain hope. Winning in Magny-Cours was going to be a much tougher job than winning in Indianapolis and once again tyres would be the key to the story and, of course, the performance of the tyres would be based on the weather. The forecasts differed - no surprise there - but the satellite pictures would seem to suggest that race day would be fine and hot. Perhaps so hot that there might be a storm in the afternoon.

For Renault this is the big one and Fernando Alonso was happy to admit that this was important.

"Every race is important," he said, "but for the team it is even more important here in France. We have six thousand guests here tomorrow and a lot of the big names in the company are coming. We will try and beat Ferrari, McLaren and Toyota.

"We can do it!" he said.

Raikkonen too was feeling confident. His car was obviously good.

"Yes," he said. "I am very confident. I think we can get closer to the podium, if not on the podium."

Fourth on the grid was a good effort for Takuma Sato in the BAR-Honda, the team keen to finally get some points on the board now that even Jordan and Minardi have scored. Points are points and it does not matter that neither team really deserved them in Indianapolis. Points have the same value no matter how they were acquired and BAR-Honda would like to have something.

Rubens Barrichello was fifth on the grid, but was four-tenths off pole but was able to sneak ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault and Jenson Button's BAR with a disappointed Juan Pablo Montoya in eighth place, ahead of Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve in the Saubers. Twelfth was Ralf Schumacher in the second Toyota and Raikkonen will slot to 13th on the grid ahead of Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld, Williams struggling badly at the moment from both engine and aerodynamic standpoints. The Red Bulls were 15th and 16th while Jordan and Minardi were mixing it at the back.

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