Montoya fastest in pre-qualifying for Italian GP

Juan Pablo Montoya outpaces Germany's Michael Schumacher in pre-qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Juan Pablo Montoya's hopes of overtaking Michael Schumacher in the race for the world title received a boost on Friday when he clearly outpaced the German in pre-qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix. Montoya produced the day's fastest lap in his BMW-Williams - one minute and 20.656 seconds, over half-a-second faster than Schumacher, who was third fastest. Schumacher's Ferrari team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, was second quickest at Monza on Friday. With just three races remaining, Formula One followers are bracing themselves for a dramatic three-way battle for the world title. Juan Pablo Montoya (71 points) is just a point behind reigning champion Michael Schumacher (72 points), with Finland's Kimi Raikkonen (70 points) a further point back. On Friday at the 5.793-kilometre (3.6-mile) Monza circuit, Montoya let his rivals know he'll be very tough to beat this weekend. The Colombian captured his first Formula One victory at Monza in 2001, and set the lap record here (one minute and 20.264 seconds) in official qualifying last year. Montoya couldn't quite match that time in pre-qualifying, but his fastest lap of one minute, 20.656 seconds was significantly quicker than the rest of the field. Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, driving a Ferrari on the Italian manufacturer's home circuit, had the day's second best time - one minute, 20.784 seconds. His team-mate, five-time world champion Michael Schumacher, had a day he'd rather forget. The German escaped unhurt after spinning off the track at the Parabolica corner in the morning, and returned to post the third fastest time - one minute and 21.268 seconds. Schumacher, winless in the last five races, is desperate to regain form after finishing a disappointing eighth in the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 24. Brazilian Cristian Da Matta produced the surprise of the day, clocking the fourth fastest time in a Toyota. Raikkonen came in equal fifth in his McLaren-Mercedes, with Australian Mark Webber, driving a Jaguar, matching his time of one minute, 21.966 seconds. Montoya's pre-qualifying time gives him the right to start last in Saturday's official qualifying. (AP)