Coulthard takes Nurburgring pole

A well-timed rain shower allowed David Coulthard to snatch pole position for the European Grand Prix

Coulthard takes Nurburgring pole

Michael Schumacher will join him on the front row, with the McLaren/Ferrari symmetry completed by Mika Hakkinen in third and Rubens Barrichello in fourth.

Hakkinen held the early advantage as the session began on a track that was still damp in places following a morning shower. With the conditions improving by the second the qualifying order was changing rapidly, but after 25 minutes the usual order appeared to be prevailing as the McLarens and Ferrari's set the pace.

Schumacher moved ahead initially, at which point Hakkinen was yet to complete a second run and languished on the fourth row. The Finn responded by becoming the first man to lap in the 1m17s bracket, but he was soon usurped by team-mate Coulthard. Championship leader Schumacher then split the McLarens but before anyone could respond a brief, but heavy, cloudburst ruled out any hope of the drivers improving their times in the second half of the session.

Nevertheless, the entire field still came out in the final two minutes as the track conditions appeared to have improved enough to allow quick laps. Several drivers lower down the order made marginal gains but Schumacher ran very wide at turn five and lost any hope of snatching pole position.

Ralf Schumacher was briefly third and was on another quick lap when he was caught out by the showers and slid over the chicane. He will start fifth.

Jarno Trulli was one of the few who managed to improve in the last-minute dash, he took sixth while his team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen's normally excellent timing eluded him. He will start tenth.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Eddie Irvine and Jacques Villeneuve filled positions seven to nine, followed by plenty of drivers with hard luck tales. Jenson Button edged his way up to 11th despite crashing heavily in the morning practice session.

Nick Heidfeld looked genuinely quick in the Prost and even managed to hold ninth for a while, only to fail to get a lap in during the closing moments and slip to 13th as others improved.

His team-mate Jean Alesi didn't get to put a lap in until just before the rain came, so was one of the first to venture out to test track conditions as the track began to dry out again. His gamble failed, the Frenchman oversteering wildly out of turn five and spinning across the track into the barriers.

There were no such problems for Coulthard, who came out in the last gasp dash but didn't need to improve his time to hold pole position. It is the first time that the Scot has taken pole since the Canadian Grand Prix in 1998, and his second pole position at the Nurburgring.

Qualifying positions for the European Grand Prix:

1 D Coulthard McLaren 1m17.529s
2 M Schumacher Ferrari 1m17.667s
3 M Hakkinen McLaren 1m17.785s
4 R Barrichello Ferrari 1m18.227s
5 R Schumacher Williams 1m18.515s
6 J Trulli Jordan 1m18.612s
7 G Fisichella Benetton 1m18.647s
8 E Irvine Jaguar 1m18.703s
9 J Villeneuve BAR 1m18.742s
10 H-H Frentzen Jordan 1m18.830s
11 J Button Williams 1m18.887s
12 P de la Rosa Arrows 1m19.024s
13 N Heidfeld Prost 1m19.147s
14 J Verstappen Arrows 1m19.190s
15 A Wurz Benetton 1m19.378s
16 P Diniz Sauber 1m19.472s
17 J Herbert Jaguar 1m19.638s
18 J Alesi Prost 1m19.651s
19 R Zonta BAR 1m19.766s
20 M Salo Sauber 1m19.814s
21 M Gene Minardi 1m20.162s
22 G Mazzacane Minardi 1m21.015s

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