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Schumacher takes US pole
July 02, 2006 04:19 IST
Michael Schumacher seized pole position for the US Grand Prix on Saturday with Ferrari sweeping the front row to end world champion Fernando Alonso's run of five successive poles.
Schumacher, celebrating his third pole of the season and 67th of his career, was joined by Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa as the Italian team locked out their rivals.
Renault's championship leader Alonso could qualify only fifth.
Four times winner at Indianapolis since Formula One returned to America in 2000, Schumacher was dominant on a sizzling day at the Brickyard -- his pole lap more than six tenths of a second faster than Massa's.
Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was third, more than a second slower than the seven times world champion. Honda's Rubens Barrichello, a winner at the Brickyard in 2002 while with Ferrari, completed the second row.
"I'm very surprised about the amount...to be a second ahead is a lot," said Schumacher, in desperate need of a win to cut Alonso's 25 point lead at the halfway point in the season. "It shows that when the package works we can be extremely strong.
"We have been suffering a little bit in the last races but here on this circuit everything just matches perfectly. It all means we are quick, so it wouldn't be a surprise if we have a good chance to win tomorrow."
"Ferrari have been very successful here and I very much look forward to putting myself into the books as a five time winner tomorrow. That would be ideal but still a long way to go," added Schumacher.
Fisichella, a winner in Malaysia in March, agreed that the 37-year-old German looks strong.
"We are really surprised about Ferrari's pace...they have been really quick and competitive," he said. "I think there is no question that they are quicker than us here."
Canada's Jacques Villeneuve, a former Indy 500 winner and 1997 world champion, was sixth fastest for BMW Sauber and starts alongside Alonso.
The 24-year-old Spaniard has yet to reach the finish in four starts at the famed 'Brickyard' and he struggled with an understeering problem.
"It was still difficult to drive and costing me time," said Alonso, chasing a fifth successive win on Sunday.
"The Grand Prix tomorrow will be a long one, so hopefully the strategy will work well for us and help me gain positions. I will be aiming for the podium, and trying to limit the damage in the championship."
Back at the Brickyard for the first time since last year's fiasco, when Michelin tyre failures led to just six cars starting the race, the drivers received an enthusiastic welcome from a large crowd that just 12 months ago was showering the track with bottles and debris.
Jarno Trulli, who put his Toyota on the pole for last year's race, was unable to come close to matching that effort qualifying 20th to put him on the back of row 10.
"Unfortunately I had a problem with the rear suspension during my first lap so I had to slow down and come back to the pits," said the Italian.
"I tried to change the third element on the rear [wing] but we didn't have enough time and also they stopped me at the scales [weighbridge] so everything went wrong."
McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya, another former Indy 500 winner, also had a disappointing qualifying with the 11th best time. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen was ninth.
"Bridgestone [Ferrari's tyre suppliers] have come with a very strong tyre and we have to adopt a race strategy that gives us the best chance of a result," said McLaren boss Ron Dennis.
"It's clearly a strategy that means we have to go long."
Starting grid for the Formula One Grand Prix of United States:
1. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari
Formula One: The Complete Coverage