Happy Raikkonen Praises 'Perfect' Car

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen took the fight to Formula One leader Michael Schumacher today with the top time in first qualifying for Sunday's European Grand Prix.

Happy Raikkonen Praises 'Perfect' Car

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen took the fight to Formula One leader Michael Schumacher today with the top time in first qualifying for Sunday's European Grand Prix.

The Finn, three points adrift of Ferrari's World Champion after the German took back the lead in Canada two weeks ago, lapped his rival's home track in 1:29.989.

Schumacher, chasing his fifth win of the year on Sunday and his 50th for Ferrari to become the first driver to score 1,000 championship points, was second quickest with a time 0.364 slower than the McLaren, which Raikkonen said worked flawlessly all day.

"The car has been perfect all day and we improved it even more for qualifying so I'm very pleased," said Raikkonen, who got his lap in before the skies opened and drenched the circuit for the later runners. "The whole lap was pretty good and I made no mistakes.

"There is no doubt that the MP4-17D is quick, but it's a matter of making all the parts work together and for me not to make any mistakes and then we are there. I look forward to the rest of the weekend."

Raikkonen left no doubt about his intentions to regain the initiative in what is also a home race for his team's engine partners Mercedes. The Nurburgring's capricious climate favoured the front-runners.

Rain began to fall after the top 10 had lapped, the deteriorating conditions leaving the tail-enders on extreme weather tyres and with no hope of coming close to the earlier times. With spray billowing out behind and rain reducing visibility, some of the later drivers lapped more than 27 seconds slower than Raikkonen, who starts last in Saturday's decisive session.

The Finn finished almost a whole second ahead of teammate David Coulthard.

"Obviously you always go into every session wanting to be fastest, but the important qualifying is tomorrow," said Coulthard. "The goal for today really is to be in the same group as our main opposition. There is nothing particular to say about the run, as my plan was to do a safe lap without pushing too hard."

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