M Schumacher takes pole for Bahrain GP

World champion Michael Schumacher took pole position for Formula One's first race in the Middle East on Saturday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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World champion Michael Schumacher took pole position for Formula One's first race in the Middle East on Saturday as Ferrari filled the front row once again. The six times champion continued his reign as king of qualifying, sweeping around Bahrain's state-of-the-art Sakhir circuit in one minute, 30.139 seconds for his third pole in three races. He was joined on the front row for the second time this season by his Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello, 0.391 of a second slower. It was the German's 58th career pole, leaving him just seven short of the record set by the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna. Saturday was qualifying day in Bahrain for the first Formula One race to be held in the Middle East. The desert circuit was built in 16 months after Bahrain was given the chance to host a Formula One grand prix. BAR's Jenson had raised his hopes of scorching to his first pole position just two weeks after claiming his maiden podium finish when he set the fastest time in both practice sessions. But the 24-year-old Briton, who was third in Malaysia last time out, dropped to eighth fastest in the pre-qualifying session where Ralf Schumacher was quickest in his Williams. In the end, Button was out qualified by team-mate Takuma Sato for the first time as the Japanese driver claimed his best ever starting position of fifth. Ahead of them, on the second row of the grid, will be the Williams-BMW drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, who were third and fourth respectively. Montoya clocked 1:30.581 while the younger Schumacher did 1:30.633. Montoya had the fastest time for the first two sectors before fading. Ralf Schumacher went out last after having the fastest time in the pre-qualifying earlier on Saturday. However, conditions were hotter earlier and then cooled off later - with track temperatures hovering around 50 Celsius. But the front row for Sunday's race will have a familiar look to it - Ferrari one and two. Michael Schumacher moved closer to matching Ayrton Senna's pole record - scorching to the 58th top spot of his career, which leaves the German just seven short of the record set by Senna before his death in Italy almost 10 years ago. Schumacher took top spot by just under 0.4 seconds from team mate Rubens Barrichello as the Ferrari duo monopolised the front row of the grid for the second time in three races this year. Schumacher clocked one minute, 30.139 seconds, with Barrichello second fastest in 1:30.530. The 35-year-old has already won the first two races of the season - in Australia and Malaysia - and could be headed for a runaway like 2002, when TV ratings sank as he won 11 out of 17 races. He already has 20 points, followed by Barrichello (13), Montoya (12), Button (9) and Renault's Fernando Alonso (8). Schumacher struggled in the early stages of last season and needed the final race to edge Kimi Raikkonen by two points. However, qualifying times may not be indicative of the fastest cars as teams have different strategies with fuel and tyres going into the 57-lap race on Sunday. (AP)