ITALIAN GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING SESSION 1 REPORT
A symbolic moment
The Formula 1 world believes that Michael Schumacher will announce his retirement from Formula 1 on Sunday and by doing so will make way for Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari. It was therefore significant that the battle for pole position came down to a fight between the two men. The Ferrari fans jumped for joy when Michael took pole position with the fastest time but the joy was cut short a few seconds later when Kimi Raikkonen came round and took pole position by two-thousandth of a second. It does not get much closer than that. For the impatient F1 media the result on Saturday could not have been better. Michael had unwillingly passed the torch to a new generation.
Perhaps it will be a different story on Sunday in the race but Kimi Raikkonen was keen to point out that he could have gone quicker but for a mistake in the Ascari chicane.
"It was not a clean lap," he said. "The race will be down to tyres and which tyres last best. So far it has been a good weekend for us and I think we have a good race car."
Michael Schumacher reckoned that he had gone as fast as he could have done.
"It is a comfortable position to be in," he said. "It would have been nice to have taken pole for the home Grand Prix but tomorrow is the more important day. Having Alonso behind me is better than having him alongside or ahead."
Fernando was the big loser on Saturday, his qualifying disrupted by a puncture which caused him to go off at the first chicane. That damaged his bodywork and there was no time to fix anything. As it was Fernando got to the line to start his final flying lap with just one second left before the chequered flag and so had to be happy with fifth on the grid, although it was behind Nick Heidfeld's BMW and Felipe Massa's Ferrari.
Heidfeld admitted that he was surprised by the result.
"It is pretty unexpected," he said. "The weekend has gone well for us. It was probably the best qualifying lap I have done this year. We opted for a low downforce set up and I think that suits out car."
For Alonso Sunday is going to be a fight as he needs to keep to a minimum the loss of points to Schumacher as the World Championship remains in the balance.
Massa was a little surprised as well because for most of the weekend he was fastest but lost out in the final dash.
Sixth was Jenson Button in his Honda ahead of Robert Kubica in his BMW, Pedro de la Rosa's McLaren, Rubens Barrichello in his Honda and Giancarlo Fisichella in the second Renault.
The second qualifying session had seen the elimination of Jarno Trulli, Nico Rosberg, Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard and Scott Speed while Christian Klien also disappeared having fallen off in the final moments of the Q1 session, having just edged Tonio Liuzzi out.
That second session was incredibly close with Trulli's lap time being just seven-tenths off the pole.
The Q1 session saw the elimination of Liuzzi, Christijan Albers, Mark Webber, Tiago Monteiro and the two Super Aguris of Tako Sato and Sakon Yamamoto, who had a tough time after his Bridgestone rear tyre came apart on the main straight.