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Controversial pole for Schumacher 27 May 2006

Pole sitter Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1 is pushed to parc ferme after stalling in the final moments of the session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, 27 May 2006

Michael Schumacher took pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, while his Ferrari was stationary at the Rascasse corner during the closing moments of qualifying.

The former champion appeared to have out-fumbled himself going into the corner immediately after setting the fastest time of 1m 13.898s in the final session of qualifying. He understeered wide and just managed to miss the outer wall before coming to a halt. The presence of the Ferrari meant that nobody else could maximise their speed through the yellow flag area, so his fastest time remained unbeatable. Fernando Alonso did manage to improve in his Renault, to 1m 13.962s, but it was not quite enough.

“I had just a touch too much speed coming into Rascasse, and couldn’t make it round,” Schumacher said after taking his best qualifying position here since 2000. “I checked with the guys where did we end up and they said P1. I couldn’t believe it!”

Initially he kept the engine running, but then it stalled and he had to be pushed away by marshals. That did not sit well with Alonso, who was clearly not happy, having set the fastest first sector time at the beginning of his spoiled lap. “We should have been on pole,” the champion said. “The previous lap I had been three-tenths faster in the last corner, so for sure we could have been on pole. I did my maximum with the car and today was okay, the car was performing really well and we have a fantastic tyre for race performance, but after dominating all weekend, to lose pole on the last lap through somebody else’s accident is not a good moment.”

Mark Webber put in his best qualifying performance of the season for Williams to take third on the grid in 1m 14.082s, but also lost out through Schumacher’s error. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth on 1m 14.140s for McLaren, with Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 14.396s) and Juan Pablo Montoya (1m 14.664s) in the second McLaren sharing the third row.

Currently, however, the stewards are to review ‘incidents’ involving cars 2 - Schumacher's - and cars 5 and 14 - Fisichella's and David Coulthard's - following reports that the Red Bull driver was blocked by the Italian. Hence grid positions remain provisional.

Rubens Barrichello was Honda’s only survivor from the second session after Jenson Button twice aborted what seemed to be laps fast enough to have left him in the vital top 10. The Brazilian lapped in 1m 15.804s for seventh in the final session, chased by Toyota’s Jarno Trulli on 1m 15.857s, Coulthard on 1m 16.426s and Williams’ Nico Rosberg, who spoiled a good lap and lost out at the end. He had to be satisfied with 1m 16.636s.

Earlier on the second session had weeded out Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher (1m 14.398s), Red Bull’s Christian Klien (1m 14.747s), Toro Rosso’s Tonio Liuzzi (1m 14.969s) and Button, who didn’t better 1m 14.982s. Neither of the BMW Saubers got through, either. Jacques Villeneuve was 15th on 1m 15.052s, while Nick Heidfeld was 16th after stopping in Turn 8 with a mechanical problem before he could improve on 1m 15.137s.

The two Midlands will be next on the grid. Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro lapped in 1m 15.598s and 1m 15.993s respectively, and were the fastest runners not to make it through from the first session. Scott Speed looked good for much of it, running just ahead of Liuzzi, but didn’t go fast when it mattered and had to be content with 1m 16.236s for 19th.

The two Super Aguris were 20th and 21st, Takuma Sato recording 1m 16.276s and Franck Montagny 1m 17.502s.

While one Ferrari was at the front, the other was at the back. On his first flying lap Felipe Massa got out of shape on the right-hand section of Casino Square and drilled into the opposite tyre wall. The Brazilian was unhurt, but the front end of his 248 F1 looked less healthy.

If the grid remains the same, depending on the results of the stewards’ deliberations, the prospects remain for a gripping start to Sunday’s race.