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Massa takes pole in Brazil
October 22, 2006 08:28 IST
Fernando Alonso had a second successive Formula One title in his sights on Saturday after fuel pressure problems hit Michael Schumacher's chances of ending his career on a winning high in Brazil.
Schumacher, who must triumph on Sunday to have any hope of retiring with an unprecedented eighth crown, qualified 10th at Interlagos with his Renault rival lining up on the second row in fourth place.
The German, calling time on the most successful career in Formula One after 250 races and a record 91 wins, watched from the Ferrari garage as team mate Felipe Massa delighted the home crowd with pole position.
"We lost fuel pressure. We don't really know why," said technical director Ross Brawn after the German failed to complete a timed lap in Saturday's third and final qualifying session.
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, Schumacher's successor at Ferrari next year, qualified on the front row next to Massa to boost his team's hopes of staving off their first season in a decade without a win.
Alonso, 10 points clear of Schumacher and needing only a point from the season-ending showdown for his second successive title, starts alongside Toyota's Jarno Trulli.
"The target this afternoon was to be in the top five, so I am very happy with this position," said the Spaniard. "Starting from the second row is perfect for our approach this weekend and so far everything is going to plan.
"Obviously the problem for Michael is another bit of help for us, not just for me but for the team as well in the constructors' championship and we will take anything we can get," he added.
Champions Renault lead Ferrari by nine points and have both their drivers ahead of Schumacher, with Italian Giancarlo Fisichella qualifying sixth.
Schumacher, fastest in the second session of Saturday's knockout qualifying on a sunny afternoon, slowed almost immediately after leaving the pit lane.
He cruised round and stayed in the car as mechanics battled against the clock in a vain attempt to get him back out.
"Sure, it's a big handicap starting from 10th place," said Schumacher, who will be next to BMW Sauber's Polish driver Robert Kubica and behind younger brother Ralf and fellow-German Nick Heidfeld.
"The only good part of today is that Felipe is on pole which must be very satisfying for him here at his home race. I hope that tomorrow he can win the race."
It was the second blow in two Grands Prix for the 37-year-old, who had made a remarkable comeback to lift himself back into title contention after being 25 points behind Alonso at the end of June.
Schumacher had written off his title chances after the penultimate race of the season in Japan, when an engine failure robbed him of victory and handed Alonso 10 points instead, and Saturday's setback made them even more remote.
"It's pretty obvious that I'm not exactly happy about this but we had to absorb a technical setback in Suzuka and then one today," he told Germany's Premier television.
"It's obviously unfortunate that in such short succession this happens in a situation where it was important, as in Suzuka, and also here, where it would have made things interesting and attractive."
Massa refused to rule out the German's chances.
"Michael was not lucky today, he seems to be not very lucky in the last two races," he said.
"He was very strong in every practice this morning and he has a very strong car for the race tomorrow. For sure he will fight a lot and hopefully we can finish in the front and make a first and second. Nothing is finished for him."
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