Schumi secures first pole position of season

World champion Michael Schumacher secured his first pole position of the season in Budapest on Saturday when he set a stunning pace in qualifying for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Schumacher, who won from pole in Budapest last year, has slumped in form this season but secured the morale-boosting top spot after seeing a marked improvement in his Ferrari machine this weekend.

The German has only won once, in the six-car race in United States, since the start of the year but the pole sitter has gone on to win the race in Budapest in every one of the last four editions and he will be hoping to see history repeat on Sunday.

His time of one minute and 19,882 seconds, which gave him his third front-row start of the year, eclipsed second-placed Juan Pablo Montoya by 0,897 seconds as the McLaren driver claimed second with the penultimate lap of the session.

Montoya’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen had set the pace in the morning practice sessions, topping both as he completed a perfect pre-race preparation, but he suffered for running early in the session.

Despite the disadvantage, the Finn, who is second in the championship, managed a time of 1:20,891, which was good enough for fourth place behind the Toyota of Italian Jarno Trulli.

Raikkonen has conceded his championship hopes are all but over, but he remains determined to win every race he can just in case title race leader Alonso is hit by bad luck in any of the remaining seven events.

And Spaniard Alonso, who is leading the world championship by 36 points from Raikkonen and ran last having won last time in Germany, almost made a mistake in his lap when he put a wheel on the grass at the final turn.

He finished with a time 1,259 seconds behind Schumacher’s to put himself in sixth place behind the second Toyota of German Ralf Schumacher as Rubens Barrichello secured seventh in the second Ferrari.

Briton Jenson Button finished eighth fastest for BAR-Honda with Italian Giancarlo Fisichella ninth in the second Renault and Takuma Sato, in the second BAR-Honda, completing the top 10.

Clear skies and strong sunshine pushed temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius when Raikkonen, who ran first because of his retirement from the last race in Germany, came out on track to start his run.

He set a stunning time that was just around seven-10ths slower than his previous fastest time of the weekend and the next man out, Australian Mark Webber of Williams, was more than 2,5 seconds slower.

Trulli then moved to the top of the times with an impressive lap to oust Raikkonen by 0,052 seconds, and then his teammate Ralf Schumacher finished just 0,125 seconds back and slotted into third.

Then Schumacher, apparently running a light car with limited fuel, went top after setting the fastest time on every sector and finishing almost a second clear of Trulli with four cars left to run.

Portugal’s Tiago Monteiro will start from the back after choosing not to set a time in his Jordan and Dutchman Robert Doornbos, in his second race for Minardi, will join him after setting the slowest time of the session.—Sapa-AFP


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