News and views on motorsports

Saturday, April 22, 2006

San Marino GP Qualy

After eighteen months and some false starts, at last we see The Great Ferrari Fightback in full swing. And in good time too. There have been some distressed and disillusioned tifosi around (no names mentioned) and this result should put the smile back on Ferrari fans worldwide. It is a crucial time for Ferrari despite what their management would have you believe but at least they are delivering.

Michael Schumacher put his scarlet machine on pole for the second time this year and finally taking Ayrton Senna's record of 65 pole positions. Took him long enough. 15 seasons more or less versus 10 for the Brazilian. Given that history books mostly focus on absolutes and the top performances, there goes statistical evidence of the great Brazilian's outright speed. Oh well, it had to go sometime and at least it goes to the man whom I believe emulates Senna more than any other in the current crop of grand prix drivers. Right down to the argy bargy when times call for it.

The Ferraris are looking very good here this weekend underlined by their pace in qualy and in free practise. Its a surprise for Renault though today. Fernando Alonso's best time was set in the first qualy session (on vapour) and its about a second slower than Michael's time. Funny given how competitive he looked in practise. Another bit of surprise was Jenson Button who set his quickest lap in qualifying in the third session where the cars have some semblance of race fuel on board. Same goes for his rejuvenated and much more competitive teammate Rubens Barrichello. Are the Hondas running light this weekend? Is Michael Schumacher doing the same?

Another thing to note about qualifying these days is the sheer number of laps the drivers put in. A look at the lap charts reveal that Michael put in a total of 22 laps in total over the three sessions. Mark Webber, who managed to qualify in 10th put in a massive 27 laps. All in the top 10 put in a total of at least 20 laps or more. No doubt of course this has a lot to do with the pointless third session where the cars run in fuel burn mode early on in the session. Still though, in the first two sessions drivers are still putting in a lot of laps.

Again, we have a disappointing Giancarlo Fisichella. Despite getting the B-spec Renault RS26 motor this weekend, he failed to make it into the top 10. This is bad for the Roman. All bad despite winning in Malaysia, I would be very surprised if he can retain his seat next year at Regie if keeps going on like this. His teammate, running the A-spec engine and into its second race now has been whipping him all weekend.

The wunderkind Nico Rosberg yet again fails to make the cut into the top 10 after being comprehensively beaten by teammate Mark Webber. Although having said that the quickest times in qualy are not that far apart between the two. Its just that the midfield are so damned close together that a 0.2 second gap can make all the difference. Its a pressure cooker in the midfield.

The McLarens have not been looking good all weekend during practise but in fact Kimi Raikkonen still managed third best time over all the three qualifying sessions, set in session 2. This is still 0.6s slower than Michael Schumacher's 1m 22.579s set in the same session. Funnily enough Juan Pablo Montoya managed to qualify ahead of the Finn for tomorrow's race although his best lap time of 1m 23.760s set in session 2 is 0.6 seconds slower than his teammate. All this despite the fact he's having to qualify in the t-car after a fuel feed problem with his regular mount.

I hate this current qualifying format because of the fuel factor you really can't tell the ultimate pace of the cars. I really wish they'd just go back to the old way of doing 12 banzai laps on low fuel so we'd all know whats going on in terms of pace.

I have a feeling there are vastly different strategies between the teams but I do know that Ferrari are definitely on form for a win this weekend. Their Melbourne weekend was hampered by tyre troubles no thanks to the bad weather in testing in the week prior to the Australian Grand Prix. The team were unable to test the latest Bridgestones and they paid for it. In Malaysia, they were hampered by engine troubles. Looks like in this weekend they've got everything down pat on a circuit where the Bridgestone tyres are the rubber to have.

With that I'll leave with the quickest times in qualy this weekend:

1. Michael Schumacher - 1m 22.579s (Session 2)
2. Jenson Button - 1m 22.988s (Session 3)
3. Kimi Raikkonen - 1m 23.190s (Session 2)
4. Rubens Barrichello - 1m 23.242s (Session 3)
5. Fernando Alonso - 1m 23.536s (Session 1)
6. Ralf Schumacher - 1m 23.565s (Session 2)
7. Filipe Massa - 1m 23.595s (Session 2)
8. Mark Webber - 1m 23.718s (Session 2)
9. Jarno Trulli - 1m 23.727s (Session 2)
10. Juan Pablo Montoya - 1m 23.760s (Session 2)
11. Giancarlo Fisichella - 1m 23.771s (Session 2)
12. Jacques Villeneuve - 1m 23.887s (Session 2)
13. Nico Rosberg - 1m 23.966s (Session 2)
14. David Coulthard - 1m 24.101s (Session 2)
15. Nick Heidfled - 1m 24.129s (Session 2)
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi - 1m 24.520 (Session 2)

And a big congrats to Herr Schumacher on setting yet another record in Formula 1

No comments: