Qualifying 1: Trulli reigns as Indy king

The fight for the world championship was forced to take a back seat in first qualifying for the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis as track conditions played into the hands of the midfield runners, an advantage that Renault's Jarno Trulli - who has set the pace in every session so far - accepted with both hands. Early runners Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher were only fifth and eighth respectively

Qualifying 1: Trulli reigns as Indy king

Following the rain shower that disrupted free practice, the track was completely dry yet 'green' when M Schumacher's Ferrari ventured out as the first car on track. His 1m10.736s was easily eclipsed by Montoya, whose Williams-BMW was 7kph faster on the long start/finish straight. Juan Pablo's 1m10.372s was celebrated with repeated punching of the air by the Colombian in the cockpit, and he admitted later that the pressure is starting to get to him.

"I feel a bit more stressed than usual," said Montoya. "I was surprised to beat Michael's time as it rained when I tried new tyres this morning, so it was a gamble to know where we were. But so far so good. I think we'll be pretty good this weekend."

But as track conditions improved, it was time for the team-mates to take centre stage. Ralf Schumacher (Williams) set a 1m10.222s laptime, easily good enough for P1, but that was beaten by his big brother's colleague, Rubens Barrichello. The Brazilian Ferrari ace brought the mark down to 1m09.835s, and this was celebrated like a pole position by the team's mechanics - but they reckoned without Renault.

Fernando Alonso's lap was disappointing, though, and only good enough for seventh. But Trulli was sensational, and despite the ever-increasing threat of rain, whirled around in 1m09.556s, over a quarter of a second faster than Barrichello's time.

"I felt very good in the car today," said the Italian. "I had very good grip out there, and I'm very happy. This is the kind of circuit that suits our car."

Barrichello said: "It was a nice lap, I got everything out of it. It's going to be a close battle this weekend...I hope it rains!"

Jaguar's Mark Webber then joined the party, producing the sort of lap he's becoming famous for on Friday afternoons. A maximum attack effort was good for an incredible third, just half a second off the pole time, and he knocked the Williams duo down to fourth and fifth.

David Coulthard managed a tidy lap to take sixth for McLaren, but team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the third car on track remember, could only manage ninth, but was just two-hundredths slower than eighth-placed M Schumacher.

Jenson Button just held off Cristiano da Matta's Toyota for the honour of the fastest Japanese-powered car in his BAR-Honda. Giancarlo Fisichella was 12th in his Jordan-Ford, and was the last of the runners not to be affected by yet another heavy rain shower.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen was halfway around his lap when it began to soak the Speedway, but he kept his nerve and 13th place. Olivier Panis (Toyota) just pipped Frentzen's Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld for 14th, while Jacques Villeneuve (BAR), Ralph Firman (Jordan), Justin Wilson (Jaguar) and Nicolas Kiesa (Minardi) completed the runners. Jos Verstappen decided to abort his flying lap and pitted his Minardi.

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