Qualifying: Juan's slick performance

Who dares wins... Williams-BMW gambled on switching to Michelin 'slicks' for the final five minutes of a wet, but drying qualifying session for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix and the tactic paid off in spades: rookie Juan Pablo Montoya starts from pole, with team mate Ralf Schumacher lining up alongside him

Qualifying: Juan's slick performance

Both Ferraris, the McLaren-Mercedes of Mika Hakkinen and Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Prost-Acer also went for the dry weather rubber option, and the final grid reflected that.

Montoya stopped the clocks at 1m52.072s, with Ralf 0.887s behind. On the second row, newly-confirmed world champ Michael Schumacher lines up third, 2.613s off the pole time, with Frentzen a totally unexpected fourth, but still a massive 3.161s behind Montoya. Timing, as well as daring, was indeed everything.

For a couple of minutes after the pole time was set, the Williams team was forced to hold its collective breath. Nick Heidefeld's Sauber was parked on the track at Stavelot and the yellows were waving as Montoya, Schumacher, et al, blasted through on their final fliers. But the all clear was given by the officials and the Colombian will start from pole for the second time in his short F1 career.

Rubens Barrichello lines up fifth, sharing the third row with Jacques Villeneuve's BAR-Honda, while Mika Hakkinen and a still impressive Giancarlo Fisichella's Benetton make up the fourth row.

David Coulthard got things very wrong tactically when he surprisingly chose to stay out on his Bridgestone intermediates in the closing minutes. As a result, the second of the McLarens will start ninth, alongside the Jaguar of Pedro de la Rosa.

In the battle of the tyre manufacturers, it was a clear victory for Michelin: as well as the whole of the front row territory being annexed by the French rubber, Prost, Benetton and Jaguar made it five cars in the top 10.

The opening minutes of the session were particularly quiet, with the first car - Tarso Marques' Minardi, surprise, surprise... - not leaving the pits until 26m had elapsed. At that point, the handful of cars that did venture out were on full wets, but as a drying groove emerged, intermediates became de rigeur.

With 15m to go, Schuey Sr held the top slot with a 1m56.921s lap, but as the asphalt in the groove continued to dry and lighten, it seemed only a matter of time before the first driver gambled on slicks. Williams did it first, putting both its pilots on dry weather tyres with five minutes to go.

Ferrari and Hakkinen waited another two minutes before joining them and in the end, that extra lap and extra track time basically clinched it for the Grove-based team.

With timing everything, some big names find themselves a long way from the sharp end. Jarno Trulli's Jordan is 16th, with Eddie Irvine's Jaguar 17th.

As things stand, four cars - both Arrows and both Minardis - have failed to get within the 107 percent of pole necessary to qualify. But given the strange circumstances of the session, all are expected to be given dispensation to start.

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