Michael Schumacher pushed the Hungarian Grand Prix pole time into previously uncharted territory, but achieved the feat using only half as many tyres and laps as his so-called 'opposition'. The Ferrari ace's second and final flyer stopped the clocks at 1m14.059s - a smidgen under 3.5s quicker than last year's pole, and 0.801s beyond the time of the second-placed man, world title long-shot David Coulthard. Stunning.
Like the majority of the runners, Schumacher waited until the hour-long session was 20 minutes old before embarking on his first run. His first three-lap burst wrested the pole from McLaren's Mika Hakkinen and lowered the mark to 1m14.417s. But 20 minutes later, the German's second and final attempt put the matter clearly beyond doubt.
With only six out of a possible 12 laps used, he observed the opposition for a while, then casually removed his helmet and balaclava and left the Ferrari garage as the others embarked on their last desperate runs.
"It wasn't so much about saving tyres," he noted of his abbreviated lappery. "It was more about knowing you've done as much as you can, so you save your energy.
"In the end, it was down to having a perfect lap. The car itself was sorted in the morning and working at 100 percent."
Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, a man whose seen many miracles performed by his driver, added somewhat wryfully: "Michael's always been exceptionally good when he's had a holiday. But we've got a new high downforce package here too. The car's good and Michael's exceptional."
Coulthard's lap wasn't bad in itself. In fact, given his weekend so far and Schumacher's dominance, it was exceptional. It puts the McLaren-Mercedes man in the best position to challenge Schumacher, but the fact remains that the Ferrari man only has to outscore him by three points to guarantee a fourth crown. It's still a long, long shot.
Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari and Ralf Schumacher's Williams-BMW constitute the second row, the latter as top Michelin runner in a sea of Bridgestone-equipped machinery. Behind them, an impressive Jarno Trulli's Jordan-Honda and Mika Hakkinen's somewhat over-driven McLaren completed the top six.
Nick Heidfeld continued his run of good form with seventh for Sauber-Petronas, while Juan Pablo Montoya continued to look ragged in his Williams, but annexed eighth.
Kimi Raikkonen's Sauber and the BAR-Honda of a rather low-key Jacques Villeneuve completed the top 10, ahead of Olivier Panis's BAR and Jordan newcomer Jean Alesi, who left it late to set his 12th fastest time.
Jaguar reverted to its early season form when it took the seventh row. It's a fall back from its position in recent races and, interestingly, it's the third qualifying session in a row when Pedro de la Rosa has been quicker than team-leader Eddie Irvine.
Benetton-Renault's morning times flattered to deceive as Giancarlo Fisichella faded to 15th, with Jenson Button 17th after a last-minute engine change. They sandwiched Prost transferee Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
Special mention should be made of Minardi rookie Fernando Alonso, who finished the session in an excellent 18th place. The young Spaniard was quicker than both Arrows and the Prost of Luciano Burti.
For full qualifying results, click HERE.
Tuscany / Results
Standings / After 9 races
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|Emilia Romagna||Imola||1 Nov|
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Berlin / Results
|2||Nyck de Vries||47m23.447s|
Standings / After 11 races
|1||Antonio Felix da Costa||158|
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