Qualifying: Michael steals it from Ralf

Qualifying for the German Grand Prix was a battle between the two Schumacher brothers, but it was the all-conquering hero Michael who stole pole position from Ralf right at the death of the hour-long session

Qualifying: Michael steals it from Ralf

As has often been the case this season, the Williams were far more competitive in qualifying than they had been in practice, however, for the first time in almost two months, it was Ralf Schumacher who was the team's main contender.

The German took the provisional pole midway through a session that took almost half an hour to spring into life, and his opening mark of 1m15.7s - over half a second slower than he managed in practice - showed why the drivers had been so reluctant to go out. But as the session wore on the times inevitably dropped, with the Ferraris of Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher taking it in turns to set new standards.

As the Ferraris moved the target into the mid-1m14s it seemed inconceivable that they could be overcome, yet a near perfect lap by Ralf did exactly that. However, with 10 minutes of the session still to run there was plenty of time for one of the red cars to improve, and given his form over the rest of the weekend it was no surprise that it was Michael who picked up the gauntlet.

His pole lap was almost two tenths quicker than Ralf's previous best, and practically all of the world champion's gain came in the short first sector. It was the 47th pole of his career, but his first since May and he was understandably delighted.

"We got it together in the end," he said. "We did good preparation this morning and everything seemed good, but in qualifying it took a while to get everything to together. It had been my dream to have a pole here at Hockenheim and hopefully I can follow it with a win."

Ralf tried to recapture the top spot on his final flying lap, but his effort fell over have a second short. Despite missing out on only his second career pole he was pleased with his qualifying effort.

"If you have a weekend when everything is fine then it's easy, and this has been one of those weekends," he said. "I had more understeer and waved yellows on the last run, but clearly Michael was better today, but we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Juan Pablo Montoya never looked like taking a fifth straight pole from the moment he understeered across the gravel on his first flying lap. His second and third runs ensured that he would at least start from the second row, but another off on his final run brought his impressive sequence of poles to an end.

The top four were well ahead of the rest of the field, which was headed by the impressive Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was able to set times that would have challenged for pole in the first two sectors of the lap, but could not match the pace of the Ferraris and Williams through the Stadium complex. However, fifth on the grid meant he out-qualified David Coulthard for the eighth time this season.

As expected the midfield bunch was very closely matched and although Coulthard was just a couple of tenths behind the Finn, he will start from ninth on the grid. Giancarlo Fisichella equalled his best performance of the year with a fine effort to take sixth, one spot ahead of the similarly impressive Olivier Panis.

Jarno Trulli did a great job to vault up to eighth on his final flying lap, which meant he finished up five places ahead of team-mate Jenson Button, although the Englishman did not have use of a qualifying engine after it blew during the morning's opening free practice session.

Nick Heidfeld maintained his run of top 10 qualifying positions, but 10th was slightly disappointing given Sauber's form throughout the rest of the weekend.

After going so well at Magny-Cours, Jaguar reverted to type at Hockenheim, although Eddie Irvine did well to take 16th. Pedro de la Rosa never got it together and will start 20th.

Just 19 cars will take to the grid for Sunday's race as for the third time this season Alex Yoong failed to get with 107 percent of pole. The Minardi driver made a big improvement on his final qualifying run, but the battle for pole shifted the target time out of his reach and Mark Webber, who was almost two seconds up on the Malaysian, will be the team's sole entry tomorrow.

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Michael Leads All-Schumacher Front Row in Germany

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