2002: Montoya's fastest-ever F1 pole lap

It's the season for records, so why not that for the fastest ever Formula 1 lap to finally consign Keke Rosberg's 1985 lap of Silverstone to dead history? Step forward Juan Pablo Montoya, whose third qualifying run yielded a lap of 161.449mph

2002: Montoya's fastest-ever F1 pole lap

There was also history in one of the key reasons for his pole. BMW proudly announced it had broken the 19,000rpm barrier during qualifying, with both Montoya and Ralf Schumacher stretching their V10s to 19,050rpm. The previous limit had been 18,800. The new rev limit probably equated to something in excess of 880 horsepower!

Monza being Monza, BMW horsepower counted for a lot, but there was more to it than that. The Williams lacks little in aero efficiency, falling short only of ultimate downforce. On such a low-downforce track it was in good shape and had proved pretty well-balanced right from the start. Furthermore, its Michelins again seemed to have the edge over Ferrari's Bridgestones in qualifying.

Montoya was neck and neck with Michael Schumacher after the first runs, and in the second Ralf Schu took provisional pole to shade his brother's earlier effort. Williams was in the hunt, game on. The Bridgestones were taking time to heat up, to the extent that Schuey was committing to two-lap runs, inevitably surrendering the theoretically ideal blend of minimal fuel load and new-tyre performance. The Michelins were similarly affected but less so. Enough to hurt the rear tyre-easy McLarens, consigning them to also-rans, but perfect for the more aggressive use of the Williams.

Monza requires a tough balancing act from the tyre manufacturers. On the one hand its smooth surface and the low-downforce trim used by the cars demand a soft compound. But a soft compound makes them extra susceptible to the effects of excess heat that is always an issue here, a place where the low downforce makes them slide more and where the 220mph straightline speeds give wheel revolutions that put yet more heat into them. Then there's the heat soak from brakes required to repeatedly stop from 200mph-plus down to chicane speeds. It all makes the workable compound window incredibly narrow - and more sensitive than usual to track temperature.

Bridgestone and Michelin made late changes to their compound selection after the Monza test the previous week, when both had suffered excessive blistering. For Bridgestone it involved making an entirely new tyre back in Japan, using new compounding technology with a chemical agent within it to improve heat durability. These arrived at Monza on Thursday, the day before first practice. Michelin brought a harder compound that had already been used earlier in the season. Both new options had universal take-up; no-one opted for their respective alternatives.

Montoya's second run was a couple of tenths adrift of team-mate Ralfs: "I was trying to get rid of the extra understeer we always pick up from practice to qualifying and it took small changes to the set-up."

At this point the two Williams were quickest from the two Ferraris, Rubens Barrichello 0.5sec behind Schuey. He had suffered a troubled couple of days, with brake failure on Friday - "I was on my out-lap and Michael was passing me and we were making rude signs to each other, then my brake pedal went to the floor and I nearly took Michael out!" - and a blown engine on Saturday morning. The engine from the T-car was transferred to his race chassis for qualifying.

With hindsight, the third runs were critical as the final ones were ruined by red flags for a Kimi Raikkonen/Takuma Sato incident. On the first lap of his third run, Barrichello got to within a couple of tenths of Schuey. He was planning on a two-lap attack but suffered a grassy moment on the second lap and had to abandon it. This consigned him to fourth on the grid.

Ralf was next to make his bid, "but I made a mistake and couldn't improve. I was angry with myself about that".

He still sat on provisional pole, courtesy of his previous run. Then came Montoya. He made the good, tidy lap that Ralf hadn't. A couple of tenths slower than Schuey's Ferrari through the long straights of sector one - all the Michelin cars seemed to need more wing to do their times than the Bridgestone-shod runners - but quickest in sector two, where his speed through the Lesmos counted for a lot. A tidy run through the Ascari chicane and big speed through Parabolica clinched it. A new F1 speed record.

Had Ralf strung his best sectors together it would have been him, not Montoya, who took his place in the history books with a time that would have been a couple of hundredths faster.

As it was, even Ralf's second place was snatched from him by his brother. This time Michael came out fuelled for a three-lap run: one flyer, one slow lap to get some heat soak into the Bridgestones, then another flyer. He completed the last of these just before the red flags and it yielded 1 m20.521 s, 0.26sec slower than Montoya but faster than not only Ralf but also Rosberg's old Silverstone average.

But no-one remembers who was the second man to beat an old record. Besides, Schuey's got enough records already.

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