| World champion Michael Schumacher steers his winning machine on the Spielberg racetrack Saturday, the eve of the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix. (AFP)
Spielberg, May 17 (Reuters): Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher put his Ferrari on pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix at the circuit where he was jeered last year.
The German, a controversial winner at the A1-Ring after being handed the lead at the last corner in 2002, lapped 0.039 of a second faster than McLaren’s championship leader Kimi Raikkonen in Saturday’s final qualifying.
It was the five times world champion’s third successive pole and the 54th of his career and he could have gone faster after wobbling at the second corner.
“I knew that I lost a little bit of time but not a great deal,” he said. “I got the car back just enough not to run too wide on the kerbs and lose a lot of traction.”
Raikkonen, who crashed on the starting grid at the last race in Spain after qualifying on the back row, returned to the front with the second best time.
The young Finn is just four points ahead of Schumacher in the overall standings but showed every intention of putting up stiff resistance in a race that his Ferrari rival is favourite to win. “It was a pretty good lap, the first time this year that I’ve got my qualifying lap together,” he said.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher’s teammate who has been forced to move over for the German in the last two Austrian races, qualified on the third row alongside the Renault of Italian Jarno Trulli.
The Williams of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya and the Ferrari-powered Sauber of Germany’s Nick Heidfeld filled the second row.
“I think we have a really good race car and it will be pretty interesting tomorrow,” said Montoya, who managed a clean lap despite debris left after McLaren’s David Coulthard ran wide into the gravel at the last corner.