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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Monaco GP Qualifying 1

First free practise today saw Montoya once again heading the timesheets with Giancarlo Fisichella in second setting the standard for Renault. Ralf Schumacher setting third fastest time with Alonso trailing him in fourth. The Toyota certainly surprising me after their test drivers in testing were predicting a tough time for the Cologne squad.

In second free practise and with clearly less fuel in the car, it was Giancarlo Fisichella who took the top spot in the final moments of the practise session ahead of teammate Alonso. Fisichella, being the only man to go below the 1m 14s bracket. Kimi Raikkonen setting third fastest time at the end of a session after eclipsing his teammate down in seventh. Coulthard was a nice surprise in eighth ahead of Michael Schumacher who headed the timesheet for much of the session. The Ferraris clearly struggling in Monaco, again much to my surprise.

In qualifying, I think many would have expected Fisichella to take pole or at least be on the front row but yet again, a mistake by the Italian cost him to lose out to Mark Webber who ended up in third spot. Montoya, despite some excellent practise times ended up behind Mark and Giancarlo. Juan Pablo admitting after the Spanish Grand Prix, that the McLaren is not quite to his satisfaction.

Ralf Schumacher's run ended up in tears, the German clipping the barrier at the entry to the Tabac corner that broke the Toyota's steering column. Ralf ended up hard in the barrier at the exit. This delayed the runs of Jarno Trulli, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen who came after him.

This probably helped the last 3 men. The sun came out during the delay, whilst the Toyota was cleared from the racetrack and its fluids dusted off the road. The track tempratures rose and one would imagine the grip.

But Jarno Trulli was clearly experiencing understeer on his run and he ended up seventh. Then came Fernando Alonso. Aided by rising tempratures, the Spaniard was clearly fired up. What impressed me most was after the tension of sitting in his car waiting for Ralf's car to be cleared off, he simply got on with the job and stuck it on provisional pole with a superb lap of aggression. His lap nearly 0.5 seconds ahead of Webber. This has been Alonso's story this season. He simply gets on with it whilst his by no means untalented teammate, keeps making mistakes. If Alonso wins the championship this year, he thoroughly deserves it.

But then Kimi got on to the circuit. If Alonso was superb, Kimi was again in a class of his own. By the end of sector one, he was more than 0.2 seconds ahead of Alonso, in a car that is proving to be the one to beat. In the second sector, he was again ahead. By the end of his lap, he's nearly half a second ahead of the Spaniard and consequently, takes provisional pole position.

You can see why Kimi and McLaren must have been very frustrated at the start of the year. Had they displayed this sort of form at that stage, I have a feeling they would be way way ahead of everyone else by now and Kimi would be the one everyone speaks about being world champion. As it is, he's in a position similar to the one Nigel Mansell found himself in 1991. A man with a faster car but early season troubles meant that he was always going to play catch up with his rival Senna at that time.

And where were the Ferraris? Down in tenth and eleventh position for Barrichello and Schumacher respectively, some 2.5 seconds down on the pace. A nice surprise to see Jacques Villeneuve in ninth position ahead of the Ferraris and his own teammate Filipe Massa in twelfth. A Sauber ahead of the F2005s. Superb stuff. As Barrichello remarked, the Ferraris would be lucky not to be lapped in the race this weekend.

But to blame everything on Bridgestone, as di Montezemolo and many others have, I think is simply ignoring that Ferrari themselves have plenty of work to do this season. I can't believe its all down to the rubber. The car itself, despite its superb Imola showing is suffering and isn't up to pace. If you agree with di Montezemolo, then you're being led by Ferrari hype. They're slow at high speed Barcelona and they're slow here at Monaco. They have neither high speed performance nor low speed mechanical grip.

The Ferraris are fast only at one time during weekends. Mid race on light fuel. As soon as the fuel them again, their pace drops dramatically (again, with the exception of Imola). But god, I'm so enjoying this.

Tomorrow looks like a battle between Kimi and Fernando in both qualifying and the race. But in my estimation, Kimi looks too bloody good to be beaten.

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