Qualifying: Rain gives Rubens pole

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix went true to form with Ferrari taking the first two positions, but for the first time in 30 races it will be Rubens Barrichello who leads the cars around on the formation lap for tomorrow's (Sunday) race after heavy rain effectively cut the session in half

Qualifying: Rain gives Rubens pole

The Brazilian was in the right place at the right time and posted his best lap of 1m25.843s just moments before the heavens opened and rain soaked the track. This put him just 0.005s up on Michael Schumacher who lost time in the first sector on his opening flying lap and was unable to respond to his team-mate's challenge.

With the threat of rain hanging over the Albert Park circuit there was plenty of action in the opening stages. Mark Webber gave the enthusiastic local fans something to cheer when he went out first and set the initial pace. His place at the top of the timesheets was prolonged when the session was red flagged after just five minutes when Takuma Sato's Jordan coasted to a halt on the fast swoop that leads into Waife.

The rookie, who was using the spare after crashing his race car in free practice, reported gear selection problems, which was also cited as the reason for his earlier accident. With rain soaking the track midway through the session, he had no hope of setting a time within 107 per cent of the pole and he'll have wait and see if the other team managers allow him to make his F1 debut on Sunday.

Just before the session was stopped there was an incident involving Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard. The Scot was on a flying lap when he came up behind the former champions going into the final corner. He tried to take the BAR around the outside, but Villeneuve didn't see his friend coming and took his natural line, squeezing the McLaren into the barrier.

His right rear glanced the barrier and he spun into the run off area. The car was undamaged and he went on to hold provisional pole for a short while once the session was resumed. He almost instantly lost the top spot to Ralf Schumacher, and dropped a further two places when the Ferrari drivers set their times.

It was a disastrous session for Jaguar with Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa running just one flying lap before the downpour and they'll start 19th and 20th, with only the Minardi of Alex Yoong behind them. The rain turned out to be good news for Giancarlo Fisichella, who did more laps than any other driver so that Sato could use his car. This allowed him to get to grips with the track and he'll start the race from ninth.

Kimi Raikkonen will make his McLaren debut from fifth place, ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, who missed out on a chance to record a time when conditions were at their best. Jarno Trulli did well to take seventh for Renault and both Saubers made it into the top 10. Felipe Massa will start his first GP from ninth ahead of team-mate Nick Heidfeld.

Mika Salo will line up an encouraging 14th for Toyota's inaugural grand prix. Allan McNish was just half a second slower than the Finn and starts his maiden F1 race from 16th.

For full qualifying results, click here.

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