Ferrari 'Struggling on First Lap'

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher remained optimistic on Saturday after a disappointing qualifying session threatened to end his five-year run of Spanish Grand Prix pole positions

Ferrari 'Struggling on First Lap'

Formula One's seven-times World Champion was seventh, although he can count on being promoted a spot after an unscheduled engine change will cost Williams' Nick Heidfeld 10 places on Sunday from Saturday's fifth-place finish.

Schumacher's time was 0.603 of a second slower than Toyota's pace-setter Jarno Trulli, with the grid decided on aggregate times after Sunday's final session.

"Whatever happens in final qualifying, this is not the ideal position on the grid," said Schumacher, who has started on pole at the Circuit de Catalunya every year since 2000 and has won the last four races there.

"So we will have to rely on our race performance. I am much happier with that and I think we are much more competitive in race trim.

"It is fair to say we are still struggling with our single lap performance."

At the last San Marino Grand Prix, two weeks ago, the German started 13th but came close to winning after duelling with Renault's Championship leader Fernando Alonso to the chequered flag over the closing laps.

Bahrain, when he qualified second on the new F2005 car's debut, is his sole top 10 starting position in four Grands Prix so far this year.

Sunday is Alonso's home race and he was provisionally second on Saturday, with every chance of pole.

"We know what are our strong and our weak points and it is clear that in tomorrow's qualifying we will not be able to do much to move up the order," said Ferrari team boss Jean Todt.

"But if Michael can stay pretty much where he is at the moment, then we have a fighting chance, given that reliability and consistency of performance of the various car-engine-tyre packages will play a key role.

"So far this season, our performance levels in the races have come from both ends of the spectrum so it is hard to make predictions about what might happen in the race."

Schumacher, who won the first five races of last year, has made his worst start to a season and is fourth in the Championship with 10 points while Spaniard Alonso has 36.

Ferrari, constructors' champions for the last six years, have now been beaten in the last five races and are in fourth place with 18 points to Renault's 46.

"In terms of time, we are not too far off the front runners and I think we will have a very good race pace," said technical director Ross Brawn.

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