Montoya Hits Brazil High Mark
March 30, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Juan Pablo Montoya won his fourth career Formula One pole Saturday, scorching the Interlagos course in 1:13.114, a year after the feisty Colombian used some of his American-trained moves to pass four-time World Champion Michael Schumacher for the lead at the Grand Prix of Brazil. This time Schumacher will start second on the grid Sunday.
Montoya’s time led a parade of Michelin-clad cars, as only seven of the top 10 cars on the grid use the French tire manufacturer. Williams driver Ralf Schumacher will start third Sunday, while Friday’s practice leader David Coulthard will start fourth. Kimi Raikkonen was fifth fastest in qualifying, followed by Renault drivers Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button. Rubens Barrichello will start eighth on the grid Sunday in his hometown-race.
Despite not getting pole position, Michael Schumacher was positive that it was the right decision to bring the new F2002 car to this race.
“The new car is ready and today showed the old car is not faster. I don't know where I would have been on the grid with the old car,” he said.
Montoya, who ran second fastest in practice Friday, was delighted with his pole position.
"I was struggling with new tires this morning, but we made some set-up changes to the car and it was good this afternoon, especially under braking for the first corner where I was having problems,” he said. “I am very happy with the car for the race and with the tires, especially in this heat.”
After Ralf Schumacher led the time sheets for most of the session, Montoya took the pole with his final run just over a tenth of a second ahead of the Ferrari.
Coulthard and Raikkonen improved to their qualifying positions with their final flying laps. Coulthard finished up just a fraction ahead of Raikkonen, who had to use the spare car for one run after his race car developed an hydraulic problem on his first run. He got back into his race chassis for a final run and lapped a few hundredth's of a second slower than his teammate.
This will be the highest starting positions for the Renault cars this season.
“It’s great for the whole team,” said Trulli, who came over to Renault this year from Jordan Honda.. “I must admit that I think we deserved more, but we had traffic on every run. We have been competitive throughout the weekend, as our split-times show, but I didn’t manage to put it all together for a single lap during qualifying. Most of all, I want to thank the whole team for giving me a very good car, which is getting better and better with every race.”
Nick Heidfeld took ninth fastest time of the session for Sauber, the German happy with that after he was forced to run his spare Sauber for the afternoon after his race car had to have an engine change.
Mika Salo took a top 10 placing after another impressive showing with the new Toyota after improving his car from the morning session; another Michelin runner, Michelin cars taking nine out of the first 13 places on the grid.
The Grand Prix of Brazil takes the green flag Sunday, March 31, at 11:30 a.m. ET.