Qualifying: Schuey nabs pole - just...

Michael Schumacher proved he was able to take whatever McLaren could throw at him during a frantic qualifying session for Sunday's British Grand Prix. The Ferrari ace took a dominant pole position, ahead of Mika Hakkinen in second and David Coulthard third

Qualifying: Schuey nabs pole - just...

After the heavy rain of the morning, the fickle British weather relented about an hour before qualifying and bright sunshine meant the Northamptonshire track was completely dry by the time the clock started ticking for the hour-long session. But in order to wait for the track temperature to rise, nobody left the pitlane until 24 minutes had passed.

Coulthard hinted yesterday (Friday), after he and McLaren team mate Hakkinen finished second and first respectively, that he was wary of what surprises Schumacher and the Ferrari team could muster overnight. And the Scot was proved correct.

Hakkinen set the early pace with a lap of 1m22.353s - which Coulthard almost beat immediately afterwards. But Schumacher showed the McLaren pair that they had a fight on their hands by eclipsing both of them with a lap three quarters of a second faster.

A lull descended as the top three returned to their garages, but DC was back just 10 minutes later and found almost half a second in the middle sector to go top. However, the Scot's glory at his home track was short-lived as Hakkinen went faster still just seconds later. But yet again Schumacher brought up the rear, track-wise, and jumped ahead of both of them.

A pattern was developing as the pits beckoned for yet more fuel and more fresh rubber. The McLaren pair took to the circuit once more, with Hakkinen improving and DC jumping ahead of his Ferrari rival, but still the German had more in reserve and with a blistering lap that stopped the clocks at 1m20.447s he took his 40th pole position.

"It was all a bit of a rush," said Schumacher. "All day it was quite exciting with the rain and everything and then our computers went wrong, so we didn't know where we were losing the time. But I can't complain, because I did the best job."

The Jordan drivers of Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen gave the Silverstone-based team something to cheer about at its home race by bagging the 'best of the rest' slots in fourth and fifth.

Trulli finished ahead of his team mate, just 0.003s behind Coulthard and could potentially have gone even faster, but hit the kerb at Becketts on his final flying lap damaging his EJ11's suspension.

Rubens Barrichello looked to have the pace to mix it with top three after holding onto fourth place early in the session, but had to be content with sixth after being bumped down the order after the melee in the dying minutes.

Kimi Raikkonen continued to carve out an increasingly impressive reputation for himself, the young Finn finishing seventh, two places ahead of his Sauber team mate Nick Heidfeld.

The pair were separated by Juan Pablo Montoya, who surprisingly managed to qualify ahead of his Williams-BMW team mate Ralf Schumacher. Unsurprisingly, the brace of FW23s wound up eighth and 10th as the Michelin tyres continued to play second fiddle to the Bridgestones in the cooler conditions.

Eddie Irvine wound up 15th after being forced to jump into the T-car after the race version of his R2 had suspension trouble. Jenson Button also struggled, as expected, but took some solace from pipping team mate Giancarlo Fisischella to 18th spot.

Despite starting Sunday's race with two extremely worthy opponents ahead of him and the fact that he has yet to find a balance for his McLaren that he entirely agrees with, Coulthard is still confident he can take his third successive British Grand Prix win.

"I'm not too disappointed with third on the grid," said Coulthard. "I don't feel I've found the right balance with the car, wet or dry. But I'm still confident for the race."

For full qualifying results click here.

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