Schumacher stumped at poor performance

Michael Schumacher has admitted he is a worried man after slipping out of the top three in qualifying for only the second time this season. The world championship leader starts fourth - a possibility he admitted to Autosport.com on Thursday - behind both his McLaren rivals and teammate Rubens Barrichello who is third

Schumacher stumped at poor performance

Schumacher was more than six-tenths of a second slower than poleholder Mika Hakkinen. The German admitted to being stumped on set-up and could not work out how to approach his F1-2000, often regarded as the best-handling F1 car of the current generation, and even hinted at desperation creeping into his attempts to get on terms with the McLarens.

"I am quite a long way off pole which worries me a little. Unlike our rivals I have been unable to find the right balance for my car and that is very important here," he said. "On my last run I had nothing to lose and I gave it my all and spun at the exit to Gosser Kurve."

He continued, "I was only competitive in one of the three timed sectors - the middle one. I could have been a bit quicker but not on the front row. Perhaps I can make up some places at the start but it's a long race and anything can still happen."

All eyes are sure to be on the German after a series of criticisms of his rough-house tactics in recent weeks.

Coulthard has warned someone could get hurt unless he is sanctioned, Eddie Irvine described him as a bully and Villeneuve said the double champion lacked ethics. Drivers have called into question the way the ex-Champion often swerves across the track at the start of the race and how he defended his lead in France by coming close to pushing the Scot off the circuit.

Schumacher is defending a 12-point lead over Coulthard with Hakkinen another six points adrift in third place.

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