Qualifying 1: Ferrari to the fore once again at Sepang

Michael Schumacher issued a stern rebuttal to those who had claimed that Ferrari's dominance of Formula 1 was slipping, blitzing the field in today's first qualifying session by a massive 0.701s

Qualifying 1: Ferrari to the fore once again at Sepang

In a display of strength from the Italian team Schumacher was followed by Rubens Barrichello, with Williams star Juan Pablo Montoya left trailing in third position.

The cars went out for pre-qualifying in the order they were classified in at the end of the Australian Grand Prix. McLaren's David Coulthard was therefore first, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher.

DC (1m36.297s) went fractionally slower than in practice this moring, taking fifth place and allowing Montoya (1m35.939s) and Raikkonen (1m36.038s) to slip ahead of him. Juan Pablo was the first into the 1m35s but was blitzed by Schumacher (1m34.980s) and to a lesser extent by Barrichello (1m35.681s).

Nick Heidfeld (1m36.407s) put one over on experienced team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen (1m36.615s) with a very tidy effort. 1.4s off the pace was enough to net him seventh, just behind Renault's Jarno Trulli (1m36.302s).

Jenson Button (1m36.632s) made a tidier looking effort than team-mate Jacques Villeneuve (1m37.585s). Hounded by Fernando Alonso (1m36.693s) in 10th, his smoothness paid off and he finished ninth, with Villeneuve back in 15th.

Ralf Schumacher had a disastrous qualifying session, and would up down the order in 13th place, despite not making any obvious major errors on his hot lap. Joining him in the "disappointed" category was the Toyota duo of Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis, who qualified 11th and 14th respectively.

Britain's Justin Wilson stuck to Jos Verstappen's sector times like glue but lost out when his Minardi had a sideways moment in the final sector of his lap. He will start second for tomorrow's final qualifying session.

Jaguar Racing also had a problem getting Antonio Pizzonia out of the pits when his Cosworth engine refused to fire up in time. The young Brazilian lost his slot and as a result will be first out tomorrow.

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