Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Barrichello secures the pole position

CHINESE GRAND PRIX Michael Schumacher spun out during his qualifying lap, making it easier for Rubens Barrichello to snag his 12th career pole in Shanghai

AP , SHANGHAI, CHINA

Kimi Raikkonen negotiates a corner during a qualifying session for the China Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, yesterday. Raikkonen is second on the grid.

PHOTO: AFP

Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello gained the first-ever pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix yesterday after Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher spun out seconds into his qualifying lap.

It was the 12th career pole and second straight for Barrichello. He now has three for the season : The US, Italian and Chinese races.

Barrichello recorded a time of 1 minute, 34.012 seconds on the brand-new 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit.

Schumacher spun on the first turn of the new track after leading the pre-qualifying an hour earlier in 1:33.185. He will start in the last row in Sunday's 56-lap race.

It will be the German's worst starting position as a Ferrari driver. In 1998 he had the pole position for the final race of the season, the Japanese GP, but stalled on the grid and was put to the back of the pack.

In 1995, as a Benetton driver, he was 16th on the grid but went on to win the Belgian Grand Prix.

Midway through the first turn, Schumacher lost control of his Ferrari and spun off the track into the wide gravel area. He went back on the track and completed the lap but failed to record a time.

The 2004 champion said the cause of the spin was not known.

"It's the first time it's happened to me. We need to find the explanation for it which we haven't done yet," he said. "The good thing is that we have all the cars in the Ferrari sandwich, one is in front one is in the back."

Schumacher already has 82 career victories, 12 season wins and a seventh drivers' titles, all records.

Barrichello, who won the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago, was astonished to see Schumacher off the track.

"The right word is that it doesn't happen often," Barrichello said.

"I was shocked when I saw Michael spin. He doesn't do that," he added. "You're always expecting something good [from him]."

At the Italian GP, Schumacher spun on the first lap , dropped to 16th and came back to finish second, coming within a second of Barrichello in the final laps. He and barrichello have teamed to finish 1-2 in eight of the 15 races so far.

Schumacher has already wrapped up the driver's championship on 136 points so far, with Barrichello second on 98 points. Barrichello can clinch second with a good showing in the race or a poor finish by Jenson Button, who is third with 71.

Barrichello acknowledged drivers were still learning the nuances of the new circuit, which may have affected Schumacher.

"You can try so many lines, but you can make mistakes," Barrichello said.

Schumacher refused to write off his first Chinese Grand Prix.

"You know in Formula One you should never give up," he said. "If you know me, I never do."

Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren, who won at Belgium in August, was at 1:34.178 for second.

Button of BAR-Honda, was third in 1:34.295. Button is trying to help BAR-Honda hold on to its second place position in the team standings behind Ferrari and ahead of Renault.

"It's good to be in front of the two Renaults," Button said. "And then we are going to see what happens in the race and it is positive for our strategy."

Jarno Trulli, the only other non-Ferrari driver to win this season, is not racing Sunday after Renault terminated his contract after the Italian Grand Prix. His place was taken by Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion who is making a return after being dropped by BAR-Honda at the end of last season.

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