Monaco GP Qualifying Report

Michael Schumacher ended up on top of the pile at the end of one of the most frenetic qualifying sessions in recent years

Monaco GP Qualifying Report

The German eclipsed the best time of Jarno Trulli just minutes from the end of the session. Meanwhile, his main rival Mika Hakkinen languished in the low teens for most of what was an uncharacteristically scrappy qualifying for the rarely shakeable Finn.

On his first fast lap, the Williams of Ralf Schumacher wandered out in front of the World Champion's McLaren. On his second attempt, Hakkinen was forced to slow for waved yellow flags when the Minardi of Marc Gene spun at Rascasse.

The same happened on Hakkinen's third run, leaving him assessing his options in seventeenth, with just a few minutes of the session to run.

The clock was ticking, and Hakkinen was clearly fuming. His mechanics readied the car for one last attempt.

Hakkinen avoided having his last run ruined by a spinner a third time, but Gaston Mazzacane had kept his engine running after spinning at Rascasse, and was able to get out of the Finn's way.

Amazingly, the McLaren was fastest overall in the first sector, but a mistake in the second sector meant that Hakkinen would be fighting a losing battle for pole. He crossed the line 1 minute and 20.241 seconds after starting his lap, good enough for fifth.

"Monaco is one of those places where you can lose out very easily if you are not in the right place at the right time," he said.

"Obviously I'm not where I want to be for the race. It just seemed that whenever I was on a flying lap I was caught in traffic or the yellow flags came out."

In fact, seven cars had been in with a reasonable chance of taking the pole, including both Jordans in what must constitute their most convincing performance this year.

Heinz Harald Frentzen was fourth in the final reckoning, less than a tenth of a second behind David Coulthard, who had scrambled onto the second row with less than five minutes remaining. The real star of the session, however, was Jarno Trulli, who twice put the EJR10 on provisional top spot.

His reward was a front row start. The tiniest whisker faster, and it could have been pole - the Italian's lap was a single thousandth of a second slower than Michael Schumacher's best.

"This has traditionally been a bad circuit for Jordan, but today's result is a measure of the progress we have made as a team and it shows that we've really got it together," said Mike Gascoyne, Jordan's technical director.

Rubens Barrichello was the last driver to complete a lap in the session, but could not better sixth, less than two tenths shy of displacing Hakkinen.

The Brazilian's set up was not perfect, but he still harboured hope of improving it for the race.

"If we can find the right solution, I am sure we can have a good race," he claimed.

The session was in fact remarkably free of crashes, and apart from the two Minardis and Pedro de la Rosa's Arrows, most machinery finished the session intact.

Jacques Villeneuve, on the other hand, suffered from the only major mechanical problem of the day. Embarrassingly for Honda, his engine expired on his out lap after ten minutes of the session, with no other cars on the track. The Canadian ended the session a disappointed 17th, on a track where he never seems able to go well.

Jaguar looked to be having a better session than has been their lot of late, with Irvine and Herbert first and third at one point in the proceedings. However, when the top teams stepped up their efforts, Jaguar seemed unable to respond. A traffic-affected end of session saw the green cars tenth and eleventh, with Irvine ahead.

However, Schumacher will start from pole, a position he has not occupied at Monaco since 1996. However, on that occasion, the German famously clouted the barriers at Tabac on the first lap. He will not want to repeat that faux pas, but at least the pressure has been eased with his main championship rival two rows behind.

For full qualifying results, click here


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Monaco Grand Prix: Practice Session Three

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