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  Saturday, 31 August, 2002, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
Schumacher in class of his own
Michael Schumacher
Schumacher was untouchable in qualifying

Michael Schumacher has taken pole position for the first time at Formula One's most challenging circuit with a stunning performance in qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The world champion, who has won at Spa-Francorchamps five times, was in a class of his own.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen put up more of a fight than had been expected, but Schumacher and Ferrari still took pole by 0.424 seconds with a lap one minute 43.726 seconds.


There's no reason to think we won't be strong in the race
Kimi Raikkonen
McLaren driver

Schumacher said: "I didn't realise until I got here that I had never been on pole in Belgium. It was something that I wanted and am delighted to have done it today.

"Spa is my favourite circuit and to win here would mean a lot to me."

Raikkonen, benefiting from a more powerful Mercedes engine, was also in impressive form.

He was a second quicker than his team-mate David Coulthard and did well to out-qualify the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello.

Kimi Raikkonen hurls his McLaren around Spa
Raikkonen was Schumacher's closest challenger

The Finn said: "I got very close but there was some sand and lots of traffic on my last lap. Anyway, second place is still good."

Raikkonen is confident of a good showing in the race.

"We're still testing and there's a question mark over how we'll do tomorrow, but there's no reason to think we won't be strong."

Barrichello was 0.6 seconds behind his team leader and just ahead of the two Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya and Coulthard.

Coulthard said: "With the race in mind we had chosen a different tyre compound than Kimi so I was not too surprised with the outcome."

After a couple of disappointing races, McLaren's tyre supplier Michelin was in much better shape at Spa.


We have gone quicker than even we expected
Eddie Irvine

Their performance was underlined by the improved speed of the Jaguars - Eddie Irvine was eighth behind Renault's Jarno Trulli, with Pedro de la Rosa 11th.

Jaguar were also benefiting from a revised front suspension system.

Irvine said: "We had a feeling going into qualifying that we could get it together and deliver a respectable performance.

"We have certainly gone quicker than even we expected and all credit must go to Michelin for producing a good tyre."

Trulli was more than 0.6secs ahead of team-mate Jenson Button, who was 10th behind Toyota's Mika Salo.

Michael Schumacher would establish two new F1 records on Sunday if he wins.

It would make him the first man to win 10 races in a season - he and Nigel Mansell share the existing record of nine.

And he would also become the first man to win at Spa six times - Schumacher and the late Ayrton Senna have both won five times on the Belgian track.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Jonathan Legard
"Schumacher's love affair with Spa started in 1991"
In-depth guide to the 2002 Formula One season

On-track action

News

Jonathan Legard

Race statistics

F1 2002
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