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Schumacher takes Spanish pole
Alan Baldwin in Barcelona | May 08, 2004 19:30 IST
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher will start Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix on pole position and next to Juan Pablo Montoya, the rival who called him 'blind or stupid' after they clashed in the last race.
The six-times Formula One world champion, qualifying for the 200th Grand Prix of his career, will be favourite to extend his perfect start to the season with a record-equalling fifth victory in a row.
If he does, it will be his sixth Spanish success and fourth in a row at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The pole was the 59th of Schumacher's career, leaving him six short of Brazilian Ayrton Senna's record, and his fourth of the season.
There could be sparks at the start however, after Montoya and Schumacher collided on the first lap at the San Marino Grand Prix two weeks ago as the Colombian tried a daring overtaking manoeuvre.
"We'll have to wait and see what happens when we get there, don't you think?" grinned Montoya, who is on the front row for the first time this season, at a post-qualifying news conference with Schumacher alongside.
"We had an interesting fight in Imola and we'll find out whether we have one tomorrow," said the German. "But it's part of racing to have a battle. I have no problem with that."
Japan's Takuma Sato, in a BAR, qualified third and starts alongside Italian Jarno Trulli in a Renault.
Sato's qualifying performance was the best by a Japanese driver in Formula One history and the 27-year-old could dream of matching compatriot Aguri Suzuki's third-place finish in the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix.
"That is the target," he said.
Qualifying dealt a huge blow to Sato's British team mate Jenson Button, who is chasing his fourth podium in a row after starting the last race on pole and was expected to be Schumacher's big challenger in Barcelona.
The return of Schumacher to his familiar slot at the front of the grid looked inevitable when Button ran wide, kicking up a shower of dust. His time was the 14th fastest, 2.5 seconds slower than Schumacher.
"I guess we cannot know what it would have been had Jenson got a good lap in," said Schumacher, who was a hefty 0.617 seconds quicker than Montoya. "I guess it would have been less."
Ferrari's Brazilian Rubens Barrichello and Germany's Ralf Schumacher, in a Williams, filled the third row.
The fourth row was made up of Toyota's French veteran Olivier Panis and Spaniard Fernando Alonso, second in front of his home crowd last year, in a Renault.
McLaren, enduring their worst start to a season in 23 years, were again well down the grid. Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, championship runner-up to Schumacher last season, was 13th while Briton David Coulthard was 10th.
Provisional grid for Sunday's Spanish Formula One Grand Prix:
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