Saturday, October 31, 1998 Published at 06:38 GMT
Schu seizes pole for Japanese clincher
Cold comfort: Schumacher had pole in Hungary, Hakkinen still won
Michael Schumacher boosted his chances of stealing the World Championship title from rival Mika Hakkinen with a blistering drive for pole position in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
Just 0.178 of a second separated the pair at the end of a gripping qualifying session that remained undecided until the very last lap.
Hakkinen's McLaren team-mate David Coulthard took third place on the grid.
The 1997 Formula One season finished with an equally tight race which saw Schumacher crash out after a controversial collision with current champion Jacques Villeneuve.
The German is under strict orders from Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo not to repeat the incident and to drive a clean race in Suzuka.
Should Hakkinen fail to finish, second place will be enough for Schumacher to take the title in a championship that saw him trail his Finnish rival by 22 points at one stage.
The Swiss-based German took pole in Japan with a time of 1:36.293 which Hakkinen simply could not match, despite the best efforts of McLaren's mechanics.
Coulthard was more than a second down on Schumacher and Irvine nearly two seconds.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen was fifth for Williams, with outgoing team-mate and World Champion Jacques Villeneuve in sixth.
Former champion Damon Hill was eighth in the Jordan and Johnny Herbert joined the grid in the Sauber at a disappointing 11th.
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