Raikkonen Keeps his Pole at Imola

Kimi Raikkonen will start Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix from pole position after a composed performance in final qualifying kept him ahead of World Championship leader Fernando Alonso

Raikkonen Keeps his Pole at Imola

Raikkonen, whose best qualifying position this year was sixth in Malaysia, started the session just three tenths of a second clear of Alonso after a tight first session on Saturday afternoon.

But he was able to extend his advantage over the Spaniard to finish on a combined time of 2:42.880 to put him six tenths of a second clear and hand him his fourth career pole position.

Alonso, whose Renault car is a notoriously fast starter, will be happy to sit alongside Raikkonen on the front row but Michael Schumacher, who was third after first qualifying, suffered a disaster and will start from 14th on the grid.

German Schumacher is benefiting from an increasingly improved performance from his Ferrari machine but he ran wide at Rivazza and threw away the team's good work to leave him with slim chance of a strong race result.

Last year's pole position winner Jenson Button, boosted by a much-improved BAR-Honda this weekend, jumped Mark Webber to finish third fastest with the Australian fourth for Williams.

Italian Jarno Trulli, who has started in the top three at every race this season, finished fifth fastest for Toyota while Japanese driver Takuma Sato climbed up the grid to finish sixth.

Alex Wurz, who is deputising for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya this weekend, managed seventh fastest time, and he will be hoping to score points in his first race for more than four-and-a-half years.

Brazilian Felipe Massa had to settle for eighth in the Sauber, just ahead of German Nick Heidfeld, who made it two Williams drivers in the top ten when he slotted into ninth as Rubens Barrichello completed the top ten for Ferrari. Massa, however, will start today's race from 18th, after an engine change.

Minardi, who are treating this weekend as a test session with their new PS05 cars, suffered a disappointment when Christijan Albers spun at the Variante Alta and crashed into the barriers.

Giancarlo Fisichella, starting sixth after a disappointing run on Saturday, put in a composed lap to finish almost one-and-a-half seconds ahead of early leader Vitantonio Liuzzi, of Red Bull Racing.

David Coulthard out-qualified his teammate Liuzzi but could not match the pace of the Renault and dropped a grid place to Fisichella but Sato gained three when he set a fast time to jump Heidfeld, Wurz and Massa.

Wurz also gained after Massa finished three tenths slower on the lap and dropped behind the Austrian but Trulli, despite a slower lap than Sato, had enough advantage from the first session to stay ahead of the Japanese driver.

Pos  Driver        Team                  Time              
 1.  Raikkonen     McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  2:42.880
 2.  Alonso        Renault           (M)  2:43.441  +  0.561
 3.  Button        BAR-Honda         (M)  2:44.105  +  1.225
 4.  Webber        Williams-BMW      (M)  2:44.511  +  1.631
 5.  Trulli        Toyota            (M)  2:44.518  +  1.638
 6.  Sato          BAR-Honda         (M)  2:44.658  +  1.778
 7.  Wurz          McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  2:44.689  +  1.809
 8.  Massa         Sauber-Petronas   (M)  2:44.930  +  2.050
 9.  Heidfeld      Williams-BMW      (M)  2:45.196  +  2.316
10.  Barrichello   Ferrari           (B)  2:45.243  +  2.363
11.  R.Schumacher  Toyota            (M)  2:45.416  +  2.536
12.  Villeneuve    Sauber-Petronas   (M)  2:46.259  +  3.379
13.  Fisichella    Renault           (M)  2:46.710  +  3.830
14.  M.Schumacher  Ferrari           (B)  2:47.244  +  4.364
15.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  2:48.070  +  5.190
16.  Liuzzi        Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  2:48.155  +  5.275
17.  Karthikeyan   Jordan-Toyota     (B)  2:52.099  +  9.219
18.  Monteiro      Jordan-Toyota     (B)  2:54.252  + 11.372
19.  Friesacher    Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  2:57.048  + 14.168
20.  Albers        Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  No Time

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