Kimi Raikkonen took advantage of wet conditions Saturday to come out ahead of Michael Schumacher in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix and put the Formula One title up in the air again.
Raikkonen, in a McLaren, ended up eighth with 1 minute, 33.272 seconds while Schumacher in a Ferrari was 14th at 1:34.302, as rain dampened the track minutes before they were about to start their sole qualifying lap at the Suzuka circuit.
So Schumacher's will start from the seventh row in his bid for a sixth world driving title Sunday, while Raikkonen will be in the fourth row. Schumacher leads Raikkonen 92-83 in the overall standings.
Raikkonen had the advantage as he went out first of the final five drivers. His teammate David Coulthard followed. Schumacher went out about five minutes later, but by that time the track was wetter and this slowed him down. Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, posted the best time with 1:31.713 about 10 minutes before the final five started.
It will be Barrichello's ninth pole position.
"It was difficult to drive in these conditions but I'm happy because Rubens is in pole and I'm optimistic that we can win two championships tomorrow," Schumacher said.
"As soon as I finished my lap I could see the rain starting to get heavier," Barrichello said. "It was misty. It was difficult to drive in those conditions. For Michael it was very wet."
Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia had a 1:32.412 for second. Montoya is 10 points behind Michael Schumacher. Even if Montoya wins on Sunday to score 10 points and Schumacher is scoreless, Schumacher will still win the championship because Montoya has just two victories this year.
Third in the qualifying was Brazilian Cristiano Da Matta, making it an all South-American top three. Da Matta, in a Toyota, clocked 1:32.419 before the rains came.
Brazilian Barrichello was the 14th of 20 drivers to go out as they go out in reverse order from Friday's pre-qualifying where Raikkonen was fifth and Schumacher third.
After Barrichello finished there was still another driver to go out. Fernando Alonso of Renault went out and the conditions showed the slower time with Alonso doing 1:33.044. There was a five minute break for television and the remaining five drivers -- Raikkonen, Coulthard, Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli -- were made to wait.
After Schumacher finished, his brother went out. He skidded all over the track and finally spun off.
Trulli, with the fastest time on Friday, didn't even try. He went directly into the pits after his warm-up lap. The conditions would not permit him to have a time so he decided not to post a time.
Therefore the top two from Friday will start in the last row on Sunday.
Michael Schumacher has a nine-point lead in the driver standings over Raikkonen, 92-83. The only way Schumacher can lose the title is if Raikkonen wins the race and Schumacher fails to score a point either by not finishing or finishing worse than eighth. All other scenarios, including finishing level on points, would give Schumacher the championship because he has won six races this season and Raikkonen just one.
"Raikkonen's situation is difficult because he has to stay out of trouble," Schumacher said.
Schumacher has won the Japanese Grand Prix five times and come in second three times. Raikkonen has a best of fourth in and has taken part twice. In 2001, driving for Sauber, he was involved in an accident after five laps.