Qualifying: Montoya rains on Ralf's parade

Local hero Ralf Schumacher looked on course for pole position in the dying moments of final qualifying for Sunday's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, but he just failed to beat Williams-BMW team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya to the quickest time on Saturday. Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello and Renault's Jarno Trulli will start from the second row

Qualifying: Montoya rains on Ralf's parade

Montoya was the penultimate driver on track and set a time of 1m15.167s. Last to go was team-mate Schumacher, who was 0.053s up at the first split, 0.195s up at the second, but lost it all, and more, in the final few metres of the circuit.

"In the last two corners I had understeer," rued Ralf, who ended up 0.018s behind Montoya. "It was very close, though."

Montoya was overjoyed to get one over his colleague on his home turf: "I'm very pleased with it. The car has been working well all weekend, and we've done a lot of development with it - it's really paid off. I think we'll have a really good race car as well."

Rubens Barrichello took the fight to the Williams duo, and took (or, perhaps, was pushed towards) the brave decision of using Bridgestone's softer tyre option. He produced a stunning lap of 1m15.488s, three-tenths off the Williams pace.

"We made a huge improvement since yesterday," said Rubens. "I felt we were close to the pole position time, but it's difficult to know where they had the edge over us."

Jarno Trulli also produced an excellent lap which was enough to knock McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen back to the third row, where he will start alongside world championship leader Michael Schumacher (Ferrari).

"It was difficult to know what the other people were going to do today," said Raikkonen. "It's important to start ahead of Michael. We know the Williams' are going to be quick around here, but tyres will be the big issue tomorrow."

Toyota's Olivier Panis was happy with his lap, which was good enough for seventh: "It was a good lap. We have improved the car and found a good balance. Cristiano has taken my set-up and went quicker today, so I am pleased for him too."

The second Renault of Fernando Alonso was surprisingly off the pace in eighth, following a mistake at Turn 2, while da Matta (who had a big moment exiting the final corner in his Toyota) and David Coulthard (McLaren) completed the top 10. DC had to use the spare car, after a software glitch spat him into the wall in practice this morning, and he didn't feel comfortable with the T-car's grip levels.

It was a barren day for the British drivers. Besides Coulthard, Justin Wilson (Jaguar) slithered to 16th, a big drop from his seventh fastest time yesterday, while Jenson Button made three big mistakes on his flying lap and will start from 17th, just ahead of the Jordan of Ralph Firman. Wilson said: "I've come back down to earth today, it's a bit frustrating. The car was capable of much more."

Jaguar team-mate Mark Webber ran wide at the Sud-Kurve which dropped him to 11th, but Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan) and Jacques Villeneuve (BAR) rallied after poor form yesterday to place 12th and 13th respectively. The Sauber duo of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld were next up.

Behind the tardy Brit-pack, Jos Verstappen's blushes were spared by a tenth and a half of a second as Nicolas Kiesa pushed him hard. The Dane, who will make his grand prix debut tomorrow, rued braking early on two occasions, and vowed: "I will brake that bit later next time." Look out, Jos!

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Montoya Sets First Pole of the Season in Germany
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