Schumacher on the dirty side

Ferrari looked a touch peeved at being unable to crack the hard McLaren nut in Germany today. Clandestine conversations with tyre men and a good deal of covert head scratching couldn't secure pole, but it's very close at the top and on current starting form Michael Schumacher's second place is looking just about as good as Raikkonen's pole

Schumacher on the dirty side

"It was very close between the top drivers," said the world champion. "I think it should be interesting tomorrow. I made a slight mistake when I locked up a front wheel, which could easily have robbed me of pole."

With the gap from first to second just about registering on the scale, at 0.032s, the emphasis in the race falls on strategy rather than pure performance. "In terms of strategy I think we have made the right decision," said Schumacher. "I think our laptimes will be good tomorrow."

Winner in 2002, Rubens Barrichello, struggled in comparison but secured fifth place in the sister Ferrari. The Brazilian will start on the well-used 'clean' side of the track, however, an advantage according to Schumacher: "In some ways I would have been happier with third," he said, "because being second on the inside line is a bit dirtier and I could lose out a little bit."

It was a spectacularly competitive session, and one which Ferrari top brass was pleased to flag up as evidence that it's previous domination of the championship will by no means result in a walkover in 2003.

"It was a fantastic battle for pole," said sporting director Jean Todt. "It is a testimony to the current high level of competition between the top teams, even though there is a question mark over the different fuel levels in the cars. Right from the start of the weekend we have seen how little there is to choose between the main protagonists in the championship.

"Tomorrow's race should be very closely contested and reliability and strategy will be the key points."

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