Ralf Gives Toyota Japan Pole in the Wet

Ralf Schumacher gave Toyota their second pole position and their first in Japan when he secured a lucky break in a rain-affected qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix here Saturday

Ralf Gives Toyota Japan Pole in the Wet

On a bitter-sweet day for the Japanese team their second driver, Jarno Trulli, spun out in the wet conditions and ended in the gravel but Schumacher held it together to secure his sixth career pole with a lop of 1:46.106.

He was the last driver to hit the track before rain began to fall at the Suzuka circuit leaving the key contenders, Renault and McLaren, out of contention with each team's two cars out late in the session at the peak of the rain.

Briton Jenson Button secured a front row spot after he finished 0.035 seconds behind Schumacher with Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, the first out as the rain came down, just sneaking in to claim third.

Austrian Christian Klien will start from fourth place on the grid in his Red Bull Racing machine with home favourite Takuma Sato fifth in the second of the BAR-Honda cars.

Scot David Coulthard, in the second Red Bull, will start from sixth with Australian Mark Webber seventh for Williams and former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve eighth in his Sauber.

Rubens Barrichello managed the ninth fastest time for Ferrari before the rain came down but his outgoing World Champion teammate Michael Schumacher, who has won four of the last five races here, suffered from the rain and finished 14th.

Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten for Sauber but the mixed-up grid and the predictions of the vehement will play a significant part in the outcome of the race.

The wet conditions proved difficult early in the session but David Coulthard, out first, completed a tentative lap before Antonio Pizzonia spun his Williams at turn nine on his out lap after getting one wheel on the wet kerb.

Pizzonia recovered to set a timed lap but it was 1.7 seconds slower than teammate Mark Webber's effort, which was itself three tenths slower than Coulthard's session-leading time.

Tiago Monteiro spun his Jordan into the gravel at turn nine after losing control at low speed and narrowly missing the barriers but his teammate Narain Karthikeyan was able to keep on track to post the third fastest time.

Jarno Trulli spun into the gravel at turn nine when he was on a strong lap and then Sato moved to the top of the times as small spots of rain began to fall around the Suzuka circuit.

Christian Klien then disappointed the home crowd by moving ahead of Sato then Ralf Schumacher moved to the top, despite running wide at the Spoon curve, and Button failed to better him and slotted into second.

Barrichello put in a disappointing lap and could manage only eighth place with the two Renaults, the two McLarens and his teammate Michael Schumacher left to complete their runs.

But the rain came down heavily and Schumacher slotted into 14th before Kimi Raikkonen set a lap slower than two minutes and Juan Pablo Montoya chose not to complete his lap as he slithered around on the final run.

Pos       Driver        Team                   Time
 1.  (13) R.Schumacher  Toyota            (M)  1:46.106
 2.  (14) Button        BAR-Honda         (M)  1:46.141 +  0.035
 3.  (16) Fisichella    Renault           (M)  1:46.276 +  0.170
 4.  (12) Klien         Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  1:46.464 +  0.358
 5.  (11) Sato          BAR-Honda         (M)  1:46.841 +  0.735
 6.   (1) Coulthard     Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  1:46.892 +  0.786
 7.   (4) Webber        Williams-BMW      (M)  1:47.233 +  1.127
 8.   (9) Villeneuve    Sauber-Petronas   (M)  1:47.440 +  1.334
 9.  (15) Barrichello   Ferrari           (B)  1:48.248 +  2.142
10.  (10) Massa         Sauber-Petronas   (M)  1:48.278 +  2.172
11.   (6) Karthikeyan   Jordan-Toyota     (B)  1:48.718 +  2.612
12.   (2) Pizzonia      Williams-BMW      (M)  1:48.898 +  2.792
13.   (7) Albers        Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  1:50.843 +  4.737
14.  (17) M.Schumacher  Ferrari           (B)  1:52.676 +  6.570
15.   (3) Doornbos      Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  1:52.894 +  6.788
16.  (18) Alonso        Renault           (M)  1:54.667 +  8.561
17.  (19) Raikkonen     McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  2:02.309 + 16.203
18.   (5) Monteiro      Jordan-Toyota     (B)  No Time
19.   (8) Trulli        Toyota            (M)  No Time
20.  (20) Montoya       McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  No Time
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