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Schumacher seizes pole in Japan

October 10, 2004 11:46 IST

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher took pole position for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix in a typhoon-delayed qualifying session held for the first time on the morning of the race.

The world champion clocked a lap of one minute 33.542 to beat younger brother Ralf, in a Williams, by just over half a second on a track still wet after two days of heavy rain in Suzuka.

"The circumstances are very unusual and I think I was lucky to run second to last," said Schumacher, who clinched his seventh world title in August and is chasing his sixth victory in Japan.

"Qualifying on the same day is rather awkward."

It was the 63rd pole of Schumacher's career, two short of Brazilian Ayrton Senna's Formula One record, and the first time this season that the two Schumachers have started together on the front row.

Australian Mark Webber was third quickest for Jaguar, in that team's penultimate race before owners Ford quit the sport, clocking 1:34.571 in overcast conditions.

Local favourite Takuma Sato's Honda-powered BAR was fourth and British team mate Jenson Button fifth as both BAR drivers qualified ahead of their Renault rivals.

The two teams are fighting for second place in the championship, with BAR nine points clear and just one race remaining after Japan. Canadian Jacques Villeneuve starts ninth for Renault and Spaniard Fernando Alonso 11th.


Ralf's performance was his best since securing pole in Canada in June, the race before the heavy crash at Indianapolis that sidelined him for three months.

Saturday's qualifying was postponed after a powerful typhoon swept through Suzuka on Friday night and Saturday morning.

Practice on Friday was severely affected by the weather as torrential rain lashed the Suzuka circuit causing several drivers to skid off the track.

Italian Jarno Trulli, winner in Monaco for Renault in May, was quickest in morning pre-qualifying ahead of his first race for Japanese team Toyota. He starts sixth.

Schumacher credited his eighth pole of the year to his 12th place at last month's inaugural Chinese Grand Prix that allowed him to go out later in the early morning pre-qualifying.

"Looking back now to China, I should be thankful for not having been so good because that's obviously made it possible for me to be where I am now," said the German, who organised a game of indoor football for the drivers on Saturday.

"I was obviously luckier than Rubens (Barrichello) being out second last car (and) having better circumstances. Everything worked perfectly well and that is why we are up there."

Ferrari team mate Barrichello, who won his second race in a row in Shanghai and handed Ferrari victory in Japan last year, will start from 15th on the grid.

Alastair Himmer
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