Italian Grand Prix Qualifying
Kimi Raikkonen continues to be full of surprises, grabbing pole position at Monza when we least expected it. The car may have been a bit light on fuel (and Pedro de la Rosa’s correspondingly heavy – he finished in eighth position), but it takes real talent to beat Ferrari and Schumacher on this circuit. If Kimi is to drive for the Italian team next year, they will not be too unhappy that he beat their man Michael into second on the grid.
The other talking point will be the pace of the BMW Saubers, with Nick Heidfeld taking third and Robert Kubica seventh. At last they have sustained their practice speed into qualifying. Now it remains to be seen whether they can continue this improvement into the race itself. With a bit of luck, we might see another new face on the top step of the podium on Sunday. If Button could do it in Hungary, why should not Heidfeld in Italy?
Fernando Alonso’s times were compromised by the puncture and subsequent tire disintegration he suffered early in Q3. Aerodynamic parts of the bodywork were knocked off by the flailing rubber and he did very well to get the maimed car into fifth position. Alonso will still be a factor in the race, in spite of Michael and Felipe Massa (fourth) being ahead of him on the grid.
The Hondas continued to look good, if a little lower down the order than in Turkey. Jenson Button grabbed sixth and Barrichello ninth. Lately they have produced solid and reliable race performances (still likely since they opted not to use the new-spec engines that have a tendency to blow up rather quickly) and they should be in there with a shout at the end.
The top ten was completed by Giancarlo Fisichella, almost certainly hampered by a heavy fuel load. He too should move into the frame as the race progresses. Otherwise, it was much as expected but the Toyotas were unusually slow. It seems the car does not like high speed circuits.
Ferrari look very strong for a race win here, as usual, but it would be nice to think that Kimi, Alonso and the BMW Saubers are able to mix it with them tomorrow. Ever the romantic, I quite fancy Heidfeld for this one but my head tells me it will be Schumacher.