I'm not writing off McLaren, says poleman Schuey

Pole-sitter for Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix Michael Schumacher says he has not written off rivals David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen despite the McLaren pair having their most disastrous qualifying performance for over three years

I'm not writing off McLaren, says poleman Schuey

Coulthard and Hakkinen finished seventh and eighth at the A1-Ring while Schumacher took his fifth pole position in six races.

The Austrian GP is the only race on the Formula 1 calendar that Schumacher has never won and although his biggest threat in tomorrow's race will likely come from the Williams-BMWs of Juan Pablo Montoya and brother Ralf - which start from second and third on the grid - the German refuses to discount the Silver Arrows.

"I am not discounting McLaren at all," said Schumacher. "They are generally good at the start and they could catch a few cars and easily be fourth or fifth very quickly. Then the race would be far from over as long as they can be faster than they were in qualifying.

"It is strange to see them doing lap times that are so slow. But there will be a reason and they will fix it for tomorrow. I wasn't aware that they were struggling until I was told on the radio afterwards. I saw their times earlier and I was pretty sure they could improve before the end as we normally do.

The McLaren pair had been on the pace throughout the weekend and Coulthard set the fastest time in the final free practice session before qualifying. The drop in speed is thought to be down to a change in wind direction, affecting the car's aerodynamics.

"With the wind and the type of circuit this is," said Schumacher, "the A1Ring is very special and you need to get things exactly right or you can be in a difficult position like we were last year in qualifying."

Today's pole position is the 37th of Schumacher's career and the German has 36 points at the top of the championship with Coulthard on 28 in second and Hakkinen a distant equal ninth on only four points.

For full qualifying report, click here.

For full qualifying results, click here.

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