By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor at Imola
Michael Schumacher will start on pole position at Ferrari's home San Marino Grand Prix in what looks set to be a closely-fought race on Sunday.
The world champion, who has had his worst ever start to a season, snatched pole position from under the nose of his brother Ralf by 0.014 seconds with a lap of one minute 22.327secs.
Ralf Schumacher produced an excellent lap to qualify second in the Williams, nearly 0.5secs quicker than team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya, who was fourth.
But his performance merely underlined why Williams can get so frustrated with him.
The German was well off the pace in the first two races of the year but has found some form as speculation rages about his future at the team.
Rubens Barrichello was third fastest for Ferrari, who are still using their revised 2002 car after problems with the new 2003 machine in testing last week.
Michael Schumacher said: "Malaysia and Brazil were tough races for us, but coming here, from experience and the tests we have done, we felt very comfortable.
"We knew the old car was capable of this, even though it was tight.
After my crash in practice the team did a great job with the spare car in time
"A racing driver will never say [a lap] was perfect. In the last sector I left a bit of time [unexplored] because I knew I was up [on time] and I did not want to overdo it."
The performances of the two Schumacher brothers were even more impressive considering their mother Elisabeth is in hospital in a coma after an illness.
Michael said he did not want to discuss the issue, and the two brothers left the circuit after qualifying to fly back to Germany to be at their mother's bedside.
Mark Webber confirmed Jaguar's discovery of some form for the first time in four years with fifth place - he was third on the grid at the last race in Brazil.
Kimi Raikkonen was sixth for McLaren ahead of the battling BAR drivers, with Jacques Villeneuve 0.2secs quicker than team-mate Jenson Button.
Spaniard Fernando Alonso produced another impressive performance to qualify eighth in the under-powered Renault - a second quicker than team-mate Jarno Trulli.
David Coulthard was on course to match Alonso's time but locked a wheel into the first Rivazza corner and slid slightly wide, costing him a few 10ths of a second.
The Scot will line up 12th on the grid.
Britons Justin Wilson and Ralph Firman were 18th and 19th, spared the ignominy of being last by Wilson's Minardi team-mate Jos Verstappen.
The Dutchman won the dubious honour of becoming the first driver to crash in the new one-lap Saturday qualifying.
The Minardi driver was 0.2secs up on his team-mate Justin Wilson but spun and crashed into the wall at the Variante Alta chicane.