It was the only record that I can think of that Michael Schumacher did not hold – the most poles in an F1 career. Ayrton Senna held it for the longest time with a total of 65 poles in his career and today Michael Schumacher broke it securing his 66th pole position at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola. This event is significant for a number of reasons.
The obvious thing here is that if there was any doubt that Michael Schumacher is the greatest Grand Prix driver of all time, securing this one last significant record should lay that to rest. Now, I’m not saying he is the most exciting F1 racer to watch – for me that title still belongs in a two-way tie between Ayrton Senna and Gilles Villeneuve – but he is the one that has smashed all the records. I think Alain Prost was a more tactical racer on the track and Nigel Mansell had more passion, but Michael has surpassed them all. I still remember the Belgian Grand Prix where he made his debut subbing for an injured Thierry Boutsen and raised plenty of eyebrows by his exciting performance in an under-powered car. Mind you back then all the races were closer than those for most of Michael’s F1 career.
The second reason that Michael taking the pole is significant is that it may indicate that Ferrari is back on the upswing. Felippe Massa qualified fourth, which modes well for the team, assuming he makes it through the race. The pole time was almost 2/10ths ahead of the BAR of Jenson Button so it may indicate that Ferrari could be back to the performance we have grown used to expecting from them, unless they are running a low fuel load, which, knowing the way Ross Brawn works, is possible though unlikely.
The other reason that a Ferrari on the pole is significant is that the Tifosi needed something to smile about after the disasters of Australia and Malaysia. The Italian press was riding Ferrari quite hard over the last few weeks and the fans were getting worried after such a long dry spell. They needed something to cheer about and a pole goes part of the way – a win completes it.
The surprises of the session were the second and third place results for Honda, and a fifth and eleventh for Renault. Jenson Button has been doing well in qualifying so far this year but Rubens Barrichello could not get a handle on his car. Today, it appears that he and the mechanics and Honda have finally come to an understanding and he is able to get the most out of his car. Alonso, on the other hand, could not carry the promise show in practice to a result in qualifying. That notwithstanding, he is one to watch during the race since he could make it to second or even take the lead by the first corner since those Renaults have magic in their starts.
I was a bit disappointed with the seventh and eight place showing of the McLaren runners, so let’s hope they are just carrying a lot of fuel. The rest of the grid and the results from qualifying are as follows:
P. No Driver Team – Engine Tyres Times
1. 5 M.SCHUMACHER Ferrari B 1’22″795
2. 12 BUTTON Honda M 1’22″988
3. 11 BARRICHELLO Honda M 1’23″242
4. 6 MASSA Ferrari B 1’23″702
5. 1 ALONSO Renault M 1’23″709
6. 7 R.SCHUMACHER Toyota B 1’23″772
7. 4 MONTOYA McLaren Mercedes M 1’24″021
8. 3 RAIKKONEN McLaren Mercedes M 1’24″324
9. 8 TRULLI Toyota B 1’24″172
10. 9 WEBBER Williams Cosworth B 1’24″795
11. 2 FISICHELLA Renault M 1’23″771
12. 17 VILLENEUVE BMW Sauber M 1’23″887
13. 10 ROSBERG Williams Cosworth B 1’23″966
14. 14 COULTHARD RedBull Ferrari M 1’24″101
15. 16 HEIDFELD BMW Sauber M 1’24″129
16. 20 LIUZZI Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1’24″520
17. 15 KLIEN RedBull Ferrari M 1’25″410
18. 21 SPEED Toro Rosso Cosw. M 1’25″437
19. 18 MONTEIRO Midland Toyota B 1’26″820
20. 19 ALBERS Midland Toyota B 1’27″088
21. 22 SATO S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1’27″609
22. 23 IDE S. Aguri F1 Honda B 1’29″282