Qualifying: Montoya smashes pole record

Williams-BMW star Juan Pablo Montoya pulverised the record for the quickest ever qualifying lap in Formula 1 when he lapped Monza at 161.484mph today (Saturday) for pole position in the Italian Grand Prix. The previous mark was held by former World Champion Keke Rosberg, also in a Williams, from Silverstone in 1985

Qualifying: Montoya smashes pole record

"I think it's pretty good," commented the laid-back Colombian. "Though, I expect next year we will be quicker again. Still it was two seconds quicker than last year, so that's pretty impressive."

A stunning middle sector - through the quick Lesmo corners - made all the difference on Montoya's best lap and he beat the field by over a quarter of a second to set up the possibility of a fascinating battle with Michael Schumacher in tomorrow's Grand Prix.

Schumacher senior's final crack deprived Williams-BMW of a front row lock-out, but he had to work hard to find the time. A hot lap followed by one to cool the tyres and then another all-out effort did the business for the World Champion as he improvised in order to get the best out of a his hard Bridgestones. "I had to do it with a different strategy," said Schumacher. "We just weren't fast enough, but we hope we will be tomorrow."

Williams technical supremo Patrick Head thinks he will be. "The Ferrari is the best car of the year," he admitted, "so if I was a betting man, I'd still be putting the money on the red cars, but I think we will be a lot closer than we have been."

There was a Williams-Ferrari split on row two as well. Ralf Schumacher had been quickest of all until Montoya threw in his mega lap, but the German rued a mistake on his third run, which prevented him improving and meant his brother's last effort pushed him down to third.

Barrichello had been ahead of his team-mate until that all-important final attempt, but he will have to be content with fourth place on the grid.

Kimi Raikkonen was best of the rest in the McLaren-Mercedes, despite a session-stopping last run crash with Takuma Sato's Jordan Honda. The Finn was just warming up for his final hot lap, when he moved over on Sato - on a qualifying lap - on the run-up to the second chicane. Both drivers got away without serious hurt from what could have been a huge shunt, but Sato was not a happy man (see separate story).

Raikkonen's best lap was an impressive seven tenths better than team-mate David Coulthard's time and Eddie Irvine's Jaguar was between the two McLarens in sixth place, with Pedro de La Rosa eighth as the Jaguars excelled on this low-downforce track.

Jacques Villeneuve pulled a rabbit out of the hat to set ninth best time in the BAR-Honda - half a second and seven places ahead of team-mate Olivier Panis.

Mika Salo completed the top 10 ahead Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella and Allan McNish. The Sauber twins were 14th and 15th with Massa again quicker than Nick Heidfeld. Panis, Jenson Button and Sato filled 16th to 18th places - all well down on their team-mates.

In Minardi-land Alex Yoong qualified comfortably, albeit in last place, 1.317sec slower than team-mate Mark Webber and quite a bit slower than he'd gone in free practice.


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