Schumacher takes dominant pole in Hungary

Qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix belonged to Michael Schumacher on Saturday afternoon. Despite the best efforts of McLaren's David Coulthard, who took second spot, an early stunning lap by the German made sure that it was never going to belong to anyone else. A struggling Mika Hakkinen was third

Schumacher takes dominant pole in Hungary

Schumacher allowed a sneak preview of his hand early in the day with a blistering show of pace in the morning's practice sessions. A low 1m17s lap was always going to be a difficult benchmark to beat. He followed suit in qualifying with a pole position time of 1m17.514s, set on the championship leader's first flying lap halfway into the session.

As is the trend with qualifying in Hungary, nobody ventured onto the track until the session was well underway. With 15 minutes gone Hakkinen was the first man out and the pained expression on the world champion's face upon his return to the McLaren pit told it all.

"We haven't really been happy with the car all weekend," said Hakkinen afterwards. "We didn't have enough time to make the changes to the car that we wanted to and we've been struggling with the balance."

The Finn made major changes to the set-up of his MP4-15 with adjustments to the rear anti roll bar and the front torsion beams. The changes were to the good - 1.1s to the good - but it wasn't enough to catch second placed Coulthard, let alone Schumacher.

Coulthard went into qualifying as Schumacher's only real threat and the Scot rose to the challenge admirably. A lap 0.4s shy of the pole time midway through the session showed he was close, but unfortunately there was no cigar. With 10 minutes to go Coulthard dipped into the 1m17's but the lap was not enough.

"We were very strong and I was happy with the balance of the car," said Coulthard, "but I don't think we fully optimised our performance."

Schumacher Jr also starred with an impressive performance. Most of the front-runners ran fresh rear rubber and scrubbed tyres at the front to reduce understeer on their hot laps, and Ralf was no different. The Williams-BMW driver capitalised on a window in the traffic with 25 minutes gone and put in a lap of 1m18.321s - good enough to hold fourth spot until the end.

Rubens Barrichello struggled in the second Ferrari and although getting both scarlet cars ahead of the McLarens was key in the Maranello game plan, there was nothing the Brazilian could do to better fifth place. Barrichello admitted the track did not suit him after practice on Friday, and suit him it didn't.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen continued his flying form of the morning sessions and wrestled his Jordan-Mugen Honda into sixth just ahead of Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella.

Jacques Villeneuve had a very disappointing session after showing flashes of pace in morning practice. The Canadian finished in 16th, two places ahead of team mate Ricardo Zonta. The BAR-Hondas were split by Johnny Herbert whose woeful season continued with a heavily understeering Jaguar. Team mate Eddie Irvine went as high as fourth early in the session but was soon shunted down the order as the front runners took up station, finishing on the fifth row in 10th place.

A deluge of cars onto the track with only two minutes to go saw all three frontrunners start a flying lap as the chequered flag was waved. Improvements on the first section times for the two McLarens were scuppered by the density of the traffic, leaving Schumacher's time unthreatened at the top.

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