CHINESE GP - SATURDAY - QUALIFYING SESSION 1 REPORT

Ferrari fervour dampened in China

Fernando Alonso, Chinese GP 2006

Fernando Alonso, Chinese GP 2006 

 © The Cahier Archive

Ferrari's hopes of winning the Chinese Grand Prix took a serious hit on Saturday in Shanghai with a damp track giving Michelin a major performance advantage over rival Bridgestone. Michael Schumacher was the only Bridgestone player to make it into the top 10 and he could do no better than sixth on the grid, 1.4secs slower than the Renaults. As a result Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella were left to dominate proceedings with Alonso six-tenths faster than his team mate. Both had an off during the Q2 session, both at Turn 1, but neither did any serious damage. Fisichella also had the misfortune to run over a mirror that had fallen off Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren.

Third on the grid was Rubens Barrichello although his Honda F1 team mate Jenson Button matched the lap time to the thousandth, showing that both men had got the best from their machinery. Both men also had offs in the Q2 session but without damage. Raikkonen was fifth fastest in his McLaren but was not really a player in the conditions although he was better off than Pedro de la Rosa who had a spin and ended up seventh, behind Schumacher. The top 10 was completed by the two BMW Saubers with Nick Heidfeld beating Robert Kubica on this occasion and Robert Doornbos, who did a good job in his first weekend as a Red Bull Racing driver.

Getting into the top 10 was a scramble for many, including Michael Schumacher who scrambled through the Q2 session with the ninth fastest time at the very end of the session, edging out Scott Speed, David Coulthard, Felipe Massa (who ended up 13th and has to take a 10-place penalty on the grid), Tonio Liuzzi, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg.

The Q1 session proved to be a big disaster for Toyota with Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli, Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro all failing to get through, along with the two Super Aguris as usual.

Ferrari and Bridgestone face an uphill struggle on Sunday if the damp conditions - which have dominated the weekend - continue.