European Grand Prix, final qualifying: Raikkonnen connects

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen produced the goods when it mattered most, beating world champion Michael Schumacher to pole for the European Grand Prix by just 0.032s. Ralf Schumacher continued his run of excellent form and kept 0.146s between him and team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya in fourth

European Grand Prix, final qualifying: Raikkonnen connects

Raikkonen was 0.039s down on Schumacher's time as he entered the last third of the lap but a fully committed, kerb bashing final chicane and an uncompromising exit from the final corner put him ahead.

Montoya, the 2002 pole winner, posted an identical first sector time to his team-mate, but just couldn't drag his Williams over the line faster than Ralf. The gap back to the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello, in fifth, was under 0.02s, while the top eight were within a second of the pole-winning time.

The Toyotas monopolised the front row of the provisional grid up to the halfway point, and like a cat with the cream Olivier Panis wasn't letting on as to where the team had found this new burst of speed.

"The team has just done an excellent job," said the Frenchman. "We've found a new direction to take the car in and, if we keep up the level of improvement in each session, I expect to score some points in the race."

But if it wasn't one of the Renaults, it was going to be the other to first spoil the party for Toyota. Jarno Trulli managed to find almost four tenths over the then pace-setting car of Panis, while Fernando Alonso knocked second-placed Cristiano da Matta back into third. Trulli qualified an impressive sixth and Alonso eighth, behind Panis.

To be honest I didn't expect to be so quick," said Trulli, "but I think I did manage to get 100 percent out of the car this time. We should be pretty competitive in the race, we shall just have to wait and see."

"I am quite satisfied with my lap, it was pretty good" said Alonso. "We are quite optimistic with our strategy for the race, but it all depends on the weather and how our tyres perform over the race distance."

Nick Heidfeld was the only man not to finish his lap. The young German appeared to snatch at cold brakes and ran wide at the first hairpin, beaching his car irrevocably on the edge of the asphalt runoff.

Formula 1's British contingent had a so-so time of it. A poor first sector scuppered David Coulthard's hot lap, the Scot ended up qualifying ninth, while Jenson Button used all of the track and then some on his way to 12th. The Englishman went over a second quicker than team-mate Jacques Villeneuve who admitted driving under par.

"That was a really bad lap," said Villeneuve. "I was carrying the same fuel as in warm-up so you could say my performance today was not great, which is going to make for a tough race tomorrow."

Ralf Firman finished up 14th, just behind team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, while Justin Wilson fell a tenth short of Jos Verstappen in 19th. Justin is currently losing six to three in the qualifying battle with his more experienced Dutch team-mate.

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