Schumacher takes pole number nine in Malaysia

Newly-crowned world champion Michael Schumacher took his ninth pole position of the season for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix

Schumacher takes pole number nine in Malaysia

The Ferrari driver finished a humid and hot hour of qualifying 0.463s ahead of outgoing champ Mika Hakkinen, with Hakkinen's McLaren team mate David Coulthard third.

Rubens Barrichello had made it an all-Ferrari front row until the dying seconds of the session, but a late burts by McLaren pushed them past the Brazilian.

By way of contrast to McLaren's frenetic efforts, Schumacher had played it cool early in the session, finally appearing with 25 minutes left. He immediately banged in a time that put him on pole, but moved the benchmark even further away from his chasers with a 1m37.397s lap with just six minutes left to run.

Even if McLaren scores a one-two finish on Sunday, Ferrari only needs a fourth place to guarantee it a drivers' and constructors' title double.

With a McLaren testing contract in his back pocket, a rejuvenated Alex Wurz continued to set the 'best of the rest' pace. The Austrian's Benetton took fifth, ahead of Jacques Villeneuve's BAR and Eddie Irvine's Jaguar. Wurz's team mate Giancarlo Fisichella could finish the session no better than 13th.

Ralf Schumacher's Williams and the Jordans of Jarno Trulli and Heinz-Harald Frentzen completed the top 10 in a session where no cars ventured out onto the track until a full 15 minutes had elapsed.

Johnny Herbert's last ever F1 qualifying session resulted in 12th for the Jaguar driver, with Jenson Button a disappointed 16th in the second Williams.

Sauber failed to shine on main sponsor Petronas's home ground, with Mika Salo only 17th and Pedro Diniz 20th.

For full qualifying results click here.


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