Having more or less shared the honours on the opening day and a half of the Italian Grand Prix meeting, Michelin had to give best to rival Bridgestone as Michael Schumacher's Ferrari snatched pole position by just 0.051secs at Monza.

The Scuderia proved to be on good form in front of its adoring tifosi, with Rubens Barrichello backing his team-mate up in third place, the pair split only by an equally scintillating flying lap from Juan Montoya. The Colombian had the opportunity to run last on the hot Monza track, but a tiny error at the Ascari chicane was enough to throw his lap off course, allowing Schumacher to claim his first pole since Austria in June.

"We must be careful not to get carried away with this afternoon's result, but it is a tremendous boost for the team," admitted Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, "A pole for Michael and third for Rubens means we're on the right side of the grid. I believe both cars can compete for a strong position tomorrow and it's a credit to everyone for all the hard work they've done. To get pole position here is just fantastic for Bridgestone and a great reward for Ferrari."

Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier was equally satisfied with the session, despite having to settle for second and, via Kimi Raikkonen, fourth on the grid.

"It seems like our packages have proved to be very competitive," he insisted of the remodelled tyres introduced for this round, "Juan Pablo was quickest for eight-tenths of his lap and only missed pole position by a fraction. We expected our main rivals to be a threat here, because their cars are optimised for circuits such as this, but what we have seen so far makes me optimistic that we will be challenging for our for our eighth victory of the campaign."

While Williams, McLaren, Toyota and Renault all got at least one car in the top ten for the French company, BAR-Honda did its bit for Bridgestone by allowing both Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve to end the day in the top half of the order.

"This is an excellent result," said technical manager Hisao Suganuma, "Pole and third for Michael and Rubens should give them the chance to achieve great results tomorrow, and we also saw a competitive performance from the BAR-Honda pair, making it four cars in the top ten for Bridgestone.

"From a tyre point of view, I think Bridgestone performed well in the hot conditions and, after all the testing that has been done by our teams recently, this afternoon's results have confirmed that we are heading in the right development direction. We need to concentrate on tomorrow now, as I expect our cars to be very competitive in the race."

Geoff Willis, BAR's technical director, admitted that the three days of testing last week had allowed the team to make good choices regarding its tyres.

"We had a good test last week at Monza and certainly found some good tyres for the race here this weekend," he said, "We're happy with our tyre choice and think we've got a good tyre. We decided pretty early on which Bridgestone we wanted, and are reasonably happy with qualifying. We've got a good race set-up so we'll see how well we do tomorrow."

With only Justin Wilson and the spinning Fernando Alonso outside the top twelve in qualifying, Michelin's F1 programme manager Pascal Vasselon insisted that the change in tyre design had not really affected performance.

"We have dominated recent qualifying sessions and were very close to annexing another pole position today," he said, "Overall, this has been a very satisfying performance. All our partner teams are well placed, and that is a tribute both to them and to everybody at Michelin, where the staff have worked incredibly hard to prepare for this event. All ten Michelin cars will use the same type of tyre tomorrow, and we expect it to be fast and consistent in equal measure."

 

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