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  Saturday, 12 October, 2002, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Schumacher secures 50th pole
Michael Schumacher in action at Suzuka
Schumacher was untouchable at Suzuka

Michael Schumacher has secured the 50th pole position of his Formula One career with a scintillating performance at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The world champion was in a class of his own at the demanding Suzuka track in a session that was marked by a huge accident to Scot Allan McNish.

Schumacher set out his stall with a stunning first flying lap, which was 0.872 seconds faster than anyone else at the time.

The German finally left his pole time at one minute 31.317 seconds, and he will line up on the front row 0.432 secs ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello.

  Leading grid positions
1 M Schumacher
2 R Barrichello
3 D Coulthard
4 K Raikkonen
5 R Schumacher
6 J P Montoya

The Brazilian edged out McLaren driver David Coulthard, who put in an excellent performance on a track where he has struggled in the past.

Coulthard's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with a last-minute lap, ahead of the Williams-BMWs of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Colombian Montoya went off trying to improve at the end of the session.

Local hero Takuma Sato was a brilliant seventh fastest in the Jordan, easily his best performance of the year.

The Japanese was just under 0.2secs quicker than team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella.

Schumacher was always expected to dominate at Suzuka - a place that he loves and which is a demanding test of a Grand Prix car's capabilities.


I'm very happy with my performance this weekend
David Coulthard

He always appeared to be driving within himself - going out only when he needed to if he felt his time was under threat.

Schumacher went out only twice after his first flying lap, lopping 0.3secs and then a further 0.2 secs off his time.

He said he went out at the end to avoid any risk of losing his pole as other leading drivers were still out on the track.

Schumacher made up most of his advantage through the tricky Esses section at the beginning of the lap.

"Basically, it's a lot of fun to throw the car around in the Esses.

"It's no secret that we have a great car, which allows us to do these things - and to be fastest after all the development [tyre company] Bridgestone has done is no surprise."

Takuma Sato of the Jordan team
Sato thrilled Japanese fans with seventh place
Coulthard said he was delighted with his and McLaren's performance - with both cars ahead of Williams on the grid.

"Of course you hope for more, but in reality that was where we would hope to be.

"And personally I'm very happy with my performance this weekend."

Sato said: "The car was good, I was comfortable and drove exactly as I wanted to.

"I just nailed it. The fan support here is superb, they reacted as if I had won the race."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Peter Slater
"The rest were left to scrap for minor placings"
In-depth guide to the 2002 Formula One season

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F1 2002
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