Raikkonen takes pole at European GP

Kimi Raikkonen gains the first pole position of his career on Saturday by clocking the fastest time in qualifying for the European Grand Prix.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Kimi Raikkonen gained the first pole position of his Formula One career on Saturday by clocking the fastest time in qualifying for the European Grand Prix. Raikkonen, in a McLaren-Mercedes, timed 1 minute 31.523 seconds, edging five-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who clocked 1:31.555 in his Ferrari. Raikkonen's Finnish compatriot Mika Hakkinen had his first pole at Nuerburgring in 1997. Raikkonen replaced Hakkinen at McLaren in 2002 after Hakkinen retired. "It's a pretty good feeling to take the pole because one of a few other guys are always taking it," the 23-year-old Raikkonen said. "We improved the car from the morning. I knew if we got everything right we could gain pole." Third was Ralf Schumacher in a Williams-BMW in 1:31.619. Raikkonen also clocked the fastest time in Friday's pre-qualifying at the 5.148-kilometre (3.199-mile) circuit in the German mountains, His best qualifying results so far was second in Monaco and Austria this year. Previously he dominated the Formula Renault series in 2000, getting nine pole positions in 13 races. "It was pretty much everywhere," said Raikkonen about his ability to gain the poles before joining the bigger series. He had only completed 23 real car races when he entered Formula One in 2001 for Sauber-Petronas, getting his first points in his first GP in Australia, where he finished sixth. When Hakkinen decided to take a sabbatical in 2002 Raikkonen was called by Ron Dennis at McLaren to replace the two-time world champion while Hakkinen thought over whether to race again. Hakkinen then officially retired. Michael Schumacher would have preferred to be a little slower in Saturday's qualifying. "I would prefer to start third, because you know if you start second you get the dirty side of the track. It don't always make a difference but it can," he said. Ralf Schumacher had the pole position in the last two races. "The last three weeks have been good to us," said Ralf, who took second in Canada while Montoya was third. Yet Michael has won four of the last five. "It's close between the three of us and that should make it interesting for tomorrow," Michael said. After a rough start this season, Michael Schumacher now leads the drivers' standings, three points ahead of Raikkonen. He took over the lead at the last race in Canada two weeks ago. Raikkonen started last in qualifying and was slightly behind Schumacher's clocking entering the final sector. Then he came on to beat Schumacher's time. "I didn't look at the screen at all. I just tried to go out there and do my best," Raikkonen said. Juan Pablo Montoya in the second Williams-BMW was fourth in 1:31.765, ahead of Rubens Barrichello in the other Ferrari, who did 1:31.780 Jarno Trulli in a Renault was sixth, 1:31.976. Michael Schumacher is looking to set a record with his fourth victory at the Nuerburgring Under the new qualifying rules all the drivers have just one lap to set and time. Raikkonen, as the fastest in pre-qualifying, had to start last. The rain that came in last in Friday's pre-qualifying forced some fast drivers to go early. Olivier Panis in a Toyota, who had led two practice sessions, had a 1:32.350 while starting fourth. He ended up seventh on the starting grid. Others missed out. Nick Heidfeld in a Sauber-Petronas slid off the track and failed to register a time. He will start in the back of the pack. Also under the new rules the cars are not able to change tires and fuel until the race starts. So some cars were dealing in light fuel loads to go faster. "It's different. If you still have a big load and get pole, it's a good feeling. If you have a low load, it's not a good feeling," Michael Schumacher said. (AP)