Qualifying: Schumacher heads Ferrari 1-2

Nevermind the regulation changes made to Formula 1 over the winter designed to spice up the action, it will be a familiar front row for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix with Michael Schumacher starting from pole and Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello alongside him

Qualifying: Schumacher heads Ferrari 1-2

The new-format qualifying session was far from dull however and after a weekend littered with uncharacteristic errors, five-time world champion Schumacher produced a "spot-on" lap of 1m27.173s. Barrichello may have gone quicker had he not been distracted by Kimi Raikkonen's crawling McLaren nursing a deflated left rear tyre.

Juan Pablo Montoya was an excellent third fastest after a weekend when the BMW WilliamsF1 Team has struggled to remain on the pace, so far. And inevitably there will be speculation that the Colombian carried less fuel than his rivals.

Schumacher, who crashed in the first free practice session this morning and then went off the road twice in the second session trying to make up for the lost time, was forced to use Barrichello's set-up in qualifying. "That's what you have team-mates for," Schumacher said afterwards. "I used Rubens settings and today it worked out for me.

"I would say that my lap was spot-on. I don't think there was any margin for error to push any further."

Both Schumacher and Montoya were quick to praise their teams after a frantic 15 minutes between the end of the warm-up session and the beginning of qualifying during which the teams had to prepare for the race. The new regulations stipulate cars must qualify in the specification that they will start the race in.

"It has been difficult for the team to adapt to the new format," said Schumacher. "Everything has to be ready for the race in those 15 minutes and this is very tricky. There may have to be some adaption made for the future. But I shouldn't complain because for me everything has worked out okay today."

Barrichello was disappointed to have qualified second after dominating for much of the weekend and holding provisional pole yesterday. "I can't really complain," said Barrichello, "but I could have been on top. I came out of Turn Six and saw the debris flag from Raikkonen's McLaren.

"There was debris on the track as well and this took away some of my attention. It's a shame because this is really the only problem I have had this weekend."

Because of the new fuel regulations, predictions on the levels each car carried are difficult, but Heinz-Harald Frentzen's fourth place was much higher than a Sauber-Petronas has been this weekend, the German qualifying ahead of Olivier Panis' Toyota, which looked stable and fuel-heavy.

Jacques Villeneuve was the first of the two BAR-Hondas in sixth with team-mate Jenson Button eighth, the pair sandwiching Nick Heidfeld's Sauber. The BARs appeared much slower than at any time during the weekend, suggesting that they were also fuel-heavy.

"It's difficult to know where you stand," said Button. "My qualifying lap didn't go so well. The wind picked up during the warm-up and changed the characteristics of the car - it became very twitchy. But I am very confident for tomorrow."

Ralf Schumacher qualified the second WilliamsF1 BMW ninth - after a miserable weekend, so far - just ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso who would have been much further up the grid but for a major sideways moment between Turns Nine and 10.

David Coulthard admitted that he had not made the best of his lap for McLaren, qualifying 11th, although he is likely to have been running with a lot of fuel. As indeed was Jarno Trulli in the Renault alongside the Scot on the sixth row.

Mark Webber's Jaguar was 14th behind Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan-Ford but ahead of the hapless Raikkonen who crashed heavily this morning and then had just a couple of laps to acclimatise himself to the spare car. He induced a puncture after running off the road on his hot lap.

Cristiano da Matta, Ralph Firman and Antonio Pizzonia were the last men with registered times. This is because Minardi chose not to complete its laps, both Justin Wilson and Jos Verstappen returning to the pits before breaking the beam. Paul Stoddart took the "strategic decision" to start both cars from the pitlane and therefore allow the team to work on the cars overnight while everyone else's cars are locked in parc fermé.

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