Qualifying: Schumacher blitzes pole

Michael Schumacher overcame a strong challenge from Kimi Raikkonen to take his first ever pole position at Spa. Schumacher found a few extra tenths when it mattered to out-pace the McLaren. Rubens Barrichello will line up third for Sunday's race, ahead of the two Williams

Qualifying: Schumacher blitzes pole

Raikkonen set the early pace, stopping the clocks at 1m44.7s after his first flying run. With almost half the session gone all the drivers bar one had recorded a time. The exception was Schumacher. His patience was well-founded and the first ever 1m43s lap of Spa was his reward.

Raikkonen pushed hard through the rest of the session, putting wheels on the grass and kicking up dust as he fought hard for his first career pole. His best lap was his final effort: a ragged run even by his own standards. It was a 44.1s, but by then the target had been moved further out of reach as Schumacher went even quicker - his lap of 1m43.726s securing the pole.

"I am certainly proud," he said. "I didn't realise before this weekend that I hadn't had pole here before and I wanted that. We worked hard yesterday and I had a feeling that it was something that we could have today."

Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello will line up behind the world champion in third place. The Brazilian lost the chance of making it yet another all red front row when he was baulked by traffic on his final flying lap.

Juan Pablo Montoya also felt he lost out when he came across a slow moving Raikkonen at the Bus Stop chicane. The Williams was on a hot lap, but the McLaren jinked across the racing line before the Finn realised there was a car looming in his mirrors and took to the escape road.

Montoya was distinctly unimpressed.

"F****ing Raikkonen. What a f****ing idiot!" he fumed over the radio, but the Finn, who was delighted with his first ever front row start, didn't see what the problem was.

"I was looking in my mirrors but I didn't see him until the last minute," he said matter-of-factly. "Then I went straight through the Bus Stop to get out of the way."

Ralf Schumacher narrowly missed out on usurping Barrichello from third with his last-minute effort, but could at least be content with evening up the qualifying score with Montoya. It now stands at seven all.

David Coulthard had a rather lacklustre session and from the moment his first lap was 1.2s off the pace, never looked like out-pacing his team-mate. In the closing stages he did briefly move up to fifth, but Montoya responded and the Scot had to settle for sixth.

Ferrari aside, qualifying at Spa was a Michelin benefit with eight of the top 10 using French rubber. Jarno Trulli was in no man's land in seventh - six tenths down on DC in sixth and half a second ahead of Eddie Irvine in eighth.

It was the best session of the year for Jaguar, who had both cars in the top 10 until the final dash for the flag. Irvine improved to take a season's best position, but Pedro de la Rosa made a mistake and dropped back to 11th.

His place in the top 10 was taken by Mika Salo, who did a great job to take ninth ahead of the second Renault of Jenson Button.

The top non-Ferrari Bridgestone runner is Jacques Villeneuve in 12th. The Canadian had a spin at Blanchimont but was able to continue. Team-mate Olivier Panis had a spectacular engine blow on the out-lap for his second qualifying run and he slipped from the cusp of the top 10 to 15th as he took to the spare car that was set-up for Villeneuve.

Giancarlo Fisichella made a school boy error and spun into the gravel on the exit of Fagnes after hooking a wheel over the kerb, but the Italian was able to commandeer a lift back to the pits on the back of a bike. He returned to the track with minutes to spare and improved to 14th.

It was a bad session for Sauber and Felipe Massa (17th) and Nick Heidfeld (18th) were only just ahead of the Minardis. Mark Webber put his practice troubles behind him to out-qualifying Anthony Davidson by 0.6s and both cars were safely inside the 107 percent limit.

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