Sunday, March 12, 2006



Eurosport - Barry Thomas - 11/03/2006

Michael Schumacher has taken pole position for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix after an enthralling qualifying session on Ssaturday, equalling Ayrton Senna's record of 65 poles. The German had to pull out a late flyer to beat team-mate Felipe Massa into second with Honda's Jenson Button third.

The new qualifying session can only be described as a huge hit after spectators, drivers and teams were left on a knife edge throughout the one-hour session. "I love it," said Honda sporting director Gil de Ferran. "I spent an hour without breathing. It was on a knife edge throughout."

It didn't take long for the suspense to set in as the leading drivers, for some reason or other, decided to wait until the dying moments of the first session before setting a time, and just as they were about to go out, Kimi Raikkonen brought everything to a halt when the rear suspension collapsed on his McLaren, leaving him last on the grid.

The drivers flooded out on track for a final run as only four laps remaining, causing Ralf Schumacher to miss the passage into the second phase as he qualified 17th. He was joined by Christijan Albers, Tiago Monteiro, Takuma Sato and Yuji Ide with Raikkonen last.

Into the second session, which was this time uninterrupted, but saw Jacques Villeneuve pushed from the safety of tenth to eleventh by team-mate Nick Heidfeld. Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard, Jarno Trulli, Vito Liuzzi and Scott Speed also failed to make it through to the final shootout.

The final twenty minute session is dictated by the introduction of fuel into the lottery. The remaining ten drivers began by burning off fuel before coming into the pits for fresh tyres in order to set a banker, and with just three minutes remaining, come in again for new tyres and a two lap burst.

Ferrari, who either judged the balance perfectly or were running light, gave Michael Schumacher the first chance to go for pole before he was beaten to P1 by team-mate Felipe Massa. Schumacher retaliated with the fastest lap on his second flying run, taking pole by just 0.05 seconds to equal Ayrton Senna's record of 65 poles.

"It's an amazing result. All winter we knew we seemed to have a good package but then you wait for the final confirmation. Here we have the confirmation," Schumacher said. "It's a nice way to be back and a great feeling."

The result was obviously aided by Ferrari's nine-day test at the same circuit last month, with Britain's Jenson Button - who also tested at Sakhir - finished third on the grid, alongside Renault's defending world champion Fernando Alonso.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was fifth for McLaren, ahead of Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, with Mark Webber a fine seventh for Williams. Austrian Christian Klien was eighth for Red Bull, with Giancarlo Fisichella a disappointing ninth after he suffered enigne problems.

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