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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 September 2006, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Raikkonen steals Monza spotlight
Italian GP, 10 September, 1300 BST

Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen took pole by the narrowest of margins
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen took a stunning pole position at the Italian Grand Prix to steal the spotlight from Ferrari at their home race.

The Finn, whose move to Ferrari is expected to be announced on Sunday, beat Michael Schumacher by 0.002secs.

Championship leader Fernando Alonso's chances were hit when he was stripped of his best three times for impeding Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

Alonso had qualified in fifth but will now start from 10th on the Monza grid.

Race stewards upheld Massa's complaint that Alonso blocked him during the final qualifying session and accordingly dished out their punishment late in the day.

Alonso subsequently dropped from fifth to 10th on the grid even though he protested his innocence.

"Massa complained about me blocking his lap but he was 300-400 metres behind me," said Alonso. "It's a strange complaint.

"I did my out lap at maximum so I didn't block anyone."

Though the stewards disagreed with Alonso they admitted, "such action may not have been deliberate".

The punishment capped a miserable day for the world champion, who had done well to qualify in fifth in a car lacking aerodynamic downforce.

A problem with his Michelin tyres had almost derailed Alonso's challenge after he was forced down the escape lane off the first chichane. Moments later his right rear tyre burst, taking with it a chunk of bodywork,

It would have been nice to take pole at our home Grand Prix but it is a comfortable position for us to be in

Michael Schumacher

The knock-on effect of Alonso's punishment sees Jenson Button move up to fifth for Honda with BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica joining him on row three.

McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa goes seventh ahead of Honda's Rubens Barrichello. Giancarlo Fisichella, who originally qualified in 10th, now lines up against his Renault team-mate.

A surprise third was BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld from Ferrari's Massa.

Schumacher's place on the front row puts him in a strong position to make up ground in the championship, in which he trails Alonso by 12 points with a maximum of 40 remaining.

Ferrari are to announce their 2007 driver line-up after the race, with the German and Italian media claiming Schumacher will announce his retirement for the end of the season.

He said after the race: "It would have been nice to take pole at our home Grand Prix but it is a comfortable position for us to be in and there are a lot of promising moments in front of us."

The partisan crowd in Monza had roared when the German, 37, had taken pole in the dying seconds of the final session only to see Raikkonen snatch it away at the last.

However, the Finn's chances of converting just his second pole of the season into a first victory are likely to hang on the ability of his Michelin tyres to cope with a track that has been partly resurfaced and now better suits Bridgestone.

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher is confident of making up ground in the title race
"The car has been pretty good all weekend but it will go down to the tyres," said Raikkonen.

"We had difficulty finding a grip here during testing but it is better now and it will just be a case of whose lasts the longest."

Heidfeld also got to grips with a the challenging Monza circuit and scored his best-ever qualifying result for BMW Sauber.

He said: "We have always been strong in the early sessions but have not been able to carry that in to qualifying - now we have."

Button recovered from the dramatic events of practice, where test driver Anthony Davidson's new engine had first caught fire then failed, to deliver a consistent fifth place with the 2006 engine back in place.

Scotland's Red Bull driver David Coulthard starts 14th after failing to get through to the final session.

The opening spell of qualifying was held up after the rear tyre on Sakon Yamamoto's Super Aguri exploded and sent a plume of rubber and debris into the air.


Grid positions ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, Monza:

1. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.484
2. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:21.486
3. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:21.653
4. Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:21.704
5. Jenson Button (GB) Honda 1:22.011
6. Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:22.258
7. Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) McLaren-Mercedes 1:22.280
8. Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda 1:22.787
9. Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:23.175
10. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:21.829 **
11. Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:21.924
12. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Cosworth 1:22.203
13. Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:22.280
14. David Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Ferrari 1:22.589
15. Scott Speed (US) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1:23.165
16. Christian Klien (Aus) RedBull-Ferrari
17. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Cosworth 1:23.043
18. Christijan Albers (Hol) MF1-Toyota 1:23.116
19. Mark Webber (Aus) Williams-Cosworth 1:23.341
20. Tiago Monteiro (Por) MF1-Toyota 1:23.920
21. Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 1:24.289
22. Sakon Yamamoto (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 1:26.001

** lost five places when stripped of three best times

SEE ALSO
As it happened: Italian GP qualifying
09 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Ferrari set blistering Monza pace
08 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Schumi is fully focused - Alonso
07 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Briatore casts doubt on new role
08 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Kovalainen to take Alonso's drive
06 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Raikkonen fit after back injury
05 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Alonso wants 'special' Monza win
04 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Ferrari set to name new line-up
01 Sep 06 |  Formula One


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