Five-time world champion Michael Schumacher took pole position Saturday for the
season-ending Japanese Grand Prix, ahead of Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.
In warm Autumn sunshine, the 33-year- old German ace secured his seventh pole of
the season and the 50th of his career, clocking one minute 31.317 seconds around
the twisty 5.821-kilometre (3.617-mile) Suzuka circuit. Only the late Brazilian
legend Ayrton Senna has claimed more pole positions with 65.
"It is no secret that we have a great car and this result proves it. I am not surprised at our performance, especially with the job Bridgestone has done for here. I was having great fun throwing the car through the Esses,” Michael said. “At the end, I went out again because although we were confident, there were still some other cars who could have done a good time. I decided to stay out and finish my flying lap to see what I could do as we had made a set-up change to the car. Once we found out that McNish was okay, the gap was useful to analyse our data and make changes. I want to win the race tomorrow, but I expect to have a nice fight with Rubens. If I finish on the podium, it will mean I have done it in every race this season. That would be the result that demonstrates our team effort, because reliability does not come from luck, it comes from a lot of serious work". Barrichello timed 1:31.749 in the last of his 12 laps during the one- hour qualifying session to secure second spot on the grid. Should the Ferrari duo repeat their performance on Sunday and record their 15th podium one-two, they will break the record for Formula One's most successful partnership, which they currently share with McLaren's legendary 1988-89 duo of Senna and Alain Prost.
"I enjoyed myself today and the car was especially fun to drive through the Esses. After we heard that Allan was okay, it was a case of using the gap in the session to work on the car and then get my concentration back before getting in the car,” Rubens said. “Sector three was difficult for me today, though not the 130R. It was more a case of finding some dust on the track and I locked up the brakes and lost a couple of tenths. I think I could have beaten Michael's first quick time but not his final one, so second is good enough today. I am happy with my performance as this is such a difficult track technically and I managed to improve the car a lot.”
It was the tenth pole position of the year for Ferrari, making it the team's 158th from 670 Grand Prix. It is the Scuderia's fifth pole at this race and Schumacher's seventh at Suzuka.
"Two Ferraris on the front row is what we wanted for the final qualifying session of the year and to celebrate Bridgestone's one hundredth grand prix in the best way possible,” added Jean Todt. “We were all shocked by McNish's accident and are glad that he emerged from it without serious injury. This incident shows how much improvements have been made on the safety front, as regards the cars and the circuits, thanks to collaboration between the teams and the FIA. Our goal for tomorrow is simple: we are keen to win as it would be the perfect end to a dream season.”