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Narain produces his best qualifying race
Agnes Carlier | October 08, 2005 17:06 IST
The Japanese Grand Prix is fast turning out to be a watershed race for Narain Karthikeyan as the Indian made the maximum out of the torrential rains to claim a season best 11th place in the qualifying for Team Jordan in Suzuka, Japan on Saturday.
Lady Luck continued to smile on the 28-year-old rookie Indian driver who showed remarkable car-control in bringing his Jordan-Toyota EJ15B home on a wet Suzuka circuit ahead of new world champion Fernando Alonso as well as the dethroned Michael Schumacher.
Heavy downpour, for the second consecutive day, meant that Bridgestone tyre-shod cars were bound to do well than their Michelin rivals but it still needed gutsy driving from Karthikeyan.
"I feel like I have really done my job today under these severe conditions. Driving was tricky, almost like a gamble. It required a real combination of car-control and self-control. But in the end it worked well," Karthikeyan said.
"I am hoping for a wet race tomorrow to show what we can do with this car," the Indian added.
That there was not much difference in the performance of Karthikeyan and the two Ferraris who too drive on Bridgestone puts the Indian's show in perspective.
In fact, while Rubens Barrichello was only half a second quicker than Karthikeyan, the seven-time champion Schumacher qualified at 14th place.
Teammate Tiago Monteiro was one of the many to spin and have no time whereas Karthikeyan bettered his practice times by about two seconds to clock 1m 48.718sec in the extreme wet conditions.
German driver Ralf Schumacher of Toyota rallied to reserve his first pole position of the season. Englishman Jenson Button of BAR-Honda was second, closely followed by Giancarlo Fiscichella of Renault.
Karthikeyan was seventh fastest in rain with a speed of 262.0 km/hr. This speed made him the seventh quickest overall at the legendary and very difficult curb, a corner called the "130 degrees corner".
"Eleventh on the grid, is my best qualifying result of the season. I was 12th at the first Australian Grand Prix. This showed the trend," he said after the session.
"I was on the same Bridgestone tyres than Rubens. I am very happy to have scored these speeds and times under these wet conditions.
"It illustrates how our intermediate wet tyres are really working and the team have found a good solution for these wet conditions."
Earlier, Karthikeyan timed a fantastic 1.50.150 on a wet track and was able to hold it until Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault) went past him towards the end to come out second in the 4th practice session.
Even now a huge trail of water could be noticed behind him as the Suzuka track is still extremely wet from the morning rain.
Kimi Raikkonen (West McLaren Mercedes) was very slow and he will suffer on the grid, having a ten-position penalty on the grid for changing the engine. His team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya (West McLaren Mercedes) did not finish his lap.
1. Ralf Schumacher, Germany, Toyota, 1 minute, 46.108 seconds, 197.021 kph (122.447 mph).
2. Jenson Button, England, BAR-Honda, 1:46.141.
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Italy, Renault, 1:46.276.
4. Christian Klien, Austria, Red Bull-Cosworth, 1:46.464.
5. Takuma Sato, Japan, BAR-Honda, 1:46.841.
6. David Coulthard, Scotland, Red Bull-Cosworth, 1:46.892.
7. Mark Webber, Australia, Williams-BMW, 1:47.233.
8. Jacques Villeneuve, Canada, Sauber-Petronas, 1:47.440.
9. Rubens Barrichello, Brazil, Ferrari, 1:48.248.
10. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Sauber-Petronas, 1:48.278
11. Narain Karthikeyan, India, Jordan-Toyota, 1:48.718.
12. Antonio Pizzonia, Brazil, Williams-BMW, 1:48.898.
13. Christijan Albers, Netherlands, Minardi-Cosworth, 1:50.843.
14. Michael Schumacher, Germany, Ferrari, 1:52.676.
15. Robert Doornbos, Monaco, Minardi-Cosworth, 1:52.894.
16. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Renault, 1:54.667.
17. x-Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, McLaren-Mercedes, 2:02.309.
18. Juan Pablo Montoya, Colombia, McLaren-Mercedes, no time.
19. Jarno Trulli, Italy, Toyota, no time.
20. Tiego Monteiro, Portugal, Jordan-Toyota, no time.
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