Ralf: 'I'll do the same to Michael'

Ralf Schumacher snatched the first pole position of his Formula 1 career and then said he would have no hesitation in launching into a roles-reversed repeat of the controversial start-line confrontation he had with older brother Michael at the Nurburgring two weeks ago

Ralf: 'I'll do the same to Michael'

After several near-misses during the first half of the season, the Williams-BMW ace celebrated his 26th birthday with his first ever pole in qualifying for Sunday's French Grand Prix.

The German, who has already won two races this year, has been pipped to pole three times by his Ferrari-driving sibling.

But he finally got his revenge at Magny-Cours as he handed Williams its first pole in nearly four years - by just one-hundredth of a second.

It was also the first pole for BMW since its F1 return at the start of 2000, and the first for Michelin, just 10 races into its Grand Prix racing comeback.

Initially, Ralf laughed off questions about whether he would cut across the Ferrari's bows, just as Michael cut across him at the 'Ring, saying: "I certainly owe him one"

But then he added: "It is the other way around this time. He is a car length behind and if it is a similar situation, he has to back off. It is as simple as that.

"I've no reservations about doing the same as he did," he added. "I have to protect my position just as he has."

Schumacher Jr, now in his fifth season of F1, said there was no animosity after the incident at the last race.

"We get along fine. Just as it was at the Nurburgring it will be tight again maybe," he said. "I just hope I get a good start and go away from him. That would be the perfect scenario."

After successive starts from the front row with his brother, qualifying proved the Williams-BMW challenge is continuing to gather pace.

It is the first pole for Williams-BMW since 1997, when Jacques Villeneuve edged out Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Jerez, even though all three drivers had exactly the same time.

And it was nearly as close this time as less than a blink of an eye separated the two brothers. But Ralf's luck came good on his birthday.

And he has the ideal chance to get the revenge he sought after losing out at the last race.

"It feels really great to get pole," said Ralf. "It's a lovely birthday present. Pole is very nice, but tomorrow is what counts. I'll just have to hope I have a better day and watch the white lines a little closer."

His last reference was to the stop-go penalty awarded to him for crossing the pitlane exit blend line prematurely.

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