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Schumacher takes first Bahrain pole

Alan Baldwin | April 03, 2004 18:06 IST
Last Updated: April 03, 2004 18:33 IST

World champion Michael Schumacher took pole position for Formula One's first race in the Middle East on Saturday as Ferrari filled the front row once again.

The six times champion continued his reign as king of qualifying, sweeping around Bahrain's state-of-the-art Sakhir circuit in one minute 30.139 seconds for his third pole in three races.

He was joined on the front row for the second time this season by his Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello, 0.391 of a second slower.

It was the German's 58th career pole, leaving him just seven short of a record set by the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna.

Williams filled the second row, with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya lining alongside Schumacher's younger brother Ralf, while BAR's Takuma Sato and Jenson Button had the third row to themselves.

"The circuit is difficult and technically demanding but that is what we are looking for, we don't want easy business. I hope we can put on a good show for all the spectators," said Schumacher.

"I was confident that we could fight for pole," he added. "I thought it was going to be very close."

Ralf had been quickest after the preliminary session, the qualifying divided into two distinct parts after the back-to-back format was heavily criticised by broadcasters, with Montoya second.

But neither could convert that into the top slot.

"I can't imagine there could have been more than that," Ralf said of his second-row place. "That's what we estimated. That's what we expected. I'm quite satisfied with what I accomplished.

"Looking at the qualifying, I don't think there's anything anyone could complain about with the performance."

Schumacher has yet to be beaten this year, winning in Australia and Malaysia while Ferrari have won every race since the Italian Grand Prix last September.

The champion may not dominate in the desert on Sunday but he remains the favourite to win.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, Schumacher's closest title challenger last year, will start from the back of the grid after being penalised 10 places following an engine failure on Friday.

The Finn did not set a time in final qualifying, returning to the pits after an installation lap. His British team mate David Coulthard was tenth.

Renault's Fernando Alonso messed up his qualifying for the second race in a row, the Spaniard running wide into the dirt at the final corner after an earlier mistake.

Alonso, the youngest winner of a Grand Prix in Formula One history, started the last race in Malaysia from the back of the grid and will line up 17th on Sunday.

Provisional starting grid for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix after Saturday's qualifying:
1. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari one minute 30.139 seconds
2. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Ferrari 1:30.530
3. Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia) Williams 1:30.581
4. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Williams 1:30.633
5. Takuma Sato (Japan) BAR 1:30.827
6. Jenson Button (Britain) BAR 1:30.856
7. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Renault 1:30.971
8. Olivier Panis (France) Toyota 1:31.686
9. Cristiano da Matta (Brazil) Toyota 1:31.717
10. David Coulthard (Britain) McLaren 1:31.719
11. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Sauber 1:31.731
12. Christian Klien (Austria) Jaguar 1:32.332
13. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Sauber 1:32.536
14. Mark Webber (Australia) Jaguar 1:32.625
15. Giorgio Pantano (Italy) Jordan 1:34.105
16. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 1:34.130
17. Gianmaria Bruni (Italy) Minardi 1:34.584
18. Zsolt Baumgartner (Hungary) Minardi 1:35.787
19. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) Jordan 1:33.506
20. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) McLaren no time

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