All Ferrari front row in Bahrain
11 March 2006
Michael Schumacher equalled the late Ayrton Senna’s record for pole positions when he took his 65th here in Bahrain this afternoon during Formula One racing’s first knockout qualifying session. Fellow Ferrari racer Felipe Massa will start alongside him, with Honda’s Jenson Button and Renault world champion Fernando Alonso on row two.
The afternoon began with a disaster for Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren. The Finn had just set the fastest first sector time with four and a half minutes of the first 15 minute session remaining, when his McLaren suffered a combination of rear wing failure and right rear suspension failure (it was unclear which came first) and spun luridly to a halt. As the session was red flagged, Raikkonen was able to drive back to the pits with the right rear wheel dragging on the track, but was clearly through for the day. The 22nd place on the grid had been decided.
With only four minutes remaining when the session restarted, everyone went out and it was all down to where you were in the traffic order. Alonso banged in fastest time from Button, Giancarlo Fisichella and Nico Rosberg, but at the back the unlucky ones were a very unhappy Ralf Schumacher, Christijan Albers, Tiago Monteiro, Yuji Ide and Takuma Sato, who did not get out for the restart. Raikkonen, of course, was out of action.
The second session was less eventful, with only Nico Rosberg spinning away his chances in Turn 10. Renault timed things perfectly to send Alonso and Fisichella out with two and three-quarter minutes left to set first and third fastest times. Montoya was second, then came Nick Heidfeld, Massa, Schumacher, Button, Christian Klien, Mark Webber and Barrichello.
Thus were determined the final 10 runners.
Most of them went out with reasonable fuel loads and kept going, only coming in to change to fresher tyres for their last efforts. When it mattered it was Schumacher who pushed his way to the front with 1m 31.431s, but Massa was close on 1m 31.478s. Button’s effort came up with 1m 31.549s, and Alonso clawed his way to fourth on 1m 31.702s only right at the end. That displaced Montoya, who had lapped his McLaren in 1m 32.164s.
They were the drivers who hogged the limelight. Barrichello seemed subdued in sixth on 1m 32.579s, as was Webber in 1m 33.006s for Williams. Klien kept it tidy for 1m 33.112s, while Fisichella never really got the lap he was looking for with 1m 33.496s. Heidfeld was on for better than his eventual 10th best 1m 33.926s, but made a slight error that proved costly.
So Schumacher is the poleman, even though he did not match Alonso’s second-session best of 1m 31.215s. Now we have to wait for the race to figure out the respective fuel loads and put it all into its true perspective.