Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen will start tomorrow’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix with a commanding pole position with his new Ferrari team.
The fastest driver in Formula One lived up to his expectation with a stunning time around the Albert Park circuit. The Finn recorded a time of one minute, 26.072 seconds, edging out his main championship rival Fernando Alonso by four-tenths of a second.
He thus became the first debutant Ferrari driver to take pole position since Juan Manuel Fangio back in 1956.
“Today we spent time getting a good set-up on car,” Raikkonen said. “For one lap it was still not ideal, not for me at least, but the main thing is it was quick enough. We have a good race package, so I am more confident for the race than for qualifying. This can be quite a funny race, but we’ll do our best and hope to win.”
Even though the double world champion was out-paced in both session one and two in the one-hour qualifying round, Alonso did the job to qualify his McLaren in second place, pushing the impressive Lewis Hamilton down to fourth – with BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld just in front of the GP2 champion with P3.
Despite that, Hamilton’s performance in his first weekend as a Formula One driver is superb. He has been the faster driver in the McLaren MP4-22 and he even forced his team-mate to push extra hard to stay ahead. A possible podium is on the cards in the race.
As for the Spaniard, he is still searching for that confidence in the car but is happy to line up on the front row. Alonso said: “I think at end we are there and to start where we are is fantastic news for the team. They have made a huge step forward since last year and we need say thanks to team. I really hope it will be a close race tomorrow, and it can be very interesting; we have been very competitive all weekend.”
It seems BMW Sauber are the major surprise in Formula One 2007, with Heidfeld in a fantastic third with Robert Kubica in fifth. It goes to show that the team’s impressive winter testing performance wasn’t a one off and it is a sign of genuine pace with the new F1.07 chassis.
Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella will start in sixth ahead of hometown hero Mark Webber in the Red Bull. And against expectations, came the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher respectively. Both of them had initial dramas: Trulli inadvertently dragged a jack all down the pit lane and then on to the track when he first went out, for which the team were subsequently fined €2000; Schumacher had a tyre problem and had to creep back to the pits before getting going again.
And rounding up the top ten is Super Aguri’s Takamo Sato. Yes, the Japanese team and driver went though into the shoot-out pole position session beating the works Honda team in the process!
It is an amazing achievement by Super Aguri. A year ago, the team was lucky enough to make the grid and had to borrow a show car from a local shopping mall to take part in the event. Now, the Japanese team are more competitive, despite running a controversial ‘shared’ chassis based on the 2006 Honda car. Sato’s team-mate, Anthony Davidson failed to make through the third session. Nevertheless, the Honda B-team is faster and more balanced than the Honda A-team. Both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello struggled in qualifying and will line up in a disappointing P14 and P17 respectively.
As for Felipe Massa, in the other Ferrari, the Brazilian suffered a gearbox problem in the second session. It was a shame that he couldn’t challenge Kimi for pole position, as that would be something to behold! Instead, we will see an exciting charge from P16 in the Grand Prix.
So an exciting start to the first round of the new season with the two main championship contenders up front. Can Kimi Raikkonen win his first race for Ferrari? Can Fernando Alonso start off his championship defence in style or will his new team-mate Lewis Hamilton achieve the ultimate prize of winning his first Grand Prix?
The grid for the Australian Grand Prix
1. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1:26.072
2. ALONSO McLaren 1:26.493
3. HEIDFELD BMW 1:26.556
4. HAMILTON McLaren 1:26.755
5. KUBICA BMW 1:27.347
6. FISICHELLA Renault 1:27.634
7. WEBBER Red Bull 1:27.934
8. TRULLI Toyota 1:28.404
9. SCHUMACHER Toyota 1:28.692
10. SATO Super Aguri 1:28.871
11. DAVIDSON Super Aguri 1:26.909
12. ROSBERG Williams 1:26.914
13. KOVALAINEN Renault 1:26.964
14. BUTTON Honda 1:27.264
15. WURZ Williams 1:27.393
16. MASSA Ferrari 1:26.712
17. BARRICHELLO Honda 1:27.679
18. SPEED Toro Rosso 1:28.305
19. COULTHARD Red Bull 1:28.579
20. LIUZZI Toro Rosso 1:29.267
21. SUTIL Spyker 1:29.339
22. ALBERS Spyker 1:31.932