Sunday, June 09, 2002

Montoya beats Schumacher in record qualifying

AP Motorsports Writer

        MONTREAL — Juan Pablo Montoya ended Michael Schumacher's string of poles at the Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday, leading a record-breaking assault on Circuit Gilles Villeuve.

        The 26-year-old Colombian driver sped through the 2.747-mile, 13-turn course in 1 minute, 12.836 seconds, 133.934 mph, easily breaking Schumacher's year-old record of 1:15.782, 130.494.

        In fact, all but one of the 22 Formula One drivers were faster than the previous record by Schumacher, who came into Saturday's session with three straight poles and six overall on the Montreal track.

        Schumacher, the runaway series leader after seven of 17 races, briefly knocked Montoya off the pole midway through the one-hour session, but Montoya came right back out of the pits to regain the top spot for good as he threw his Williams-BMW through the turns with abandon.

        Schumacher took a final shot at Montoya late in the one-hour session and got his time down to 1:13.018 (133.600). The German driver had one of his 12 qualifying laps remaining but suddenly slowed and drove into the pits as light rain began pelting down on Notre Dame Island.

        “We knew there was a chance of rain,” Schumacher said. “We didn't get it together and that's the result of it.”

        That gave second-year F1 star Montoya, a former CART series champion and the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, his third pole of the season and the sixth since taking over the Team Williams ride last year.

        “That was a pretty good lap,” Montoya said. “The car just kept getting quicker and quicker. The new tires just give the car extra grip.”

        Both Montoya and Schumacher, a four-time winner here, credited the tire war between Michelin and Bridgestone for the jump in speeds.

        “The track hasn't really changed and the cars are not so much different,” said Schumacher, who races on Bridgestones and holds a 33-point lead over both Montoya and his younger brother, Ralf, who race on Michelins. “So it must be tires.”

        Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari was third, followed by the Williams of defending race winner Ralf Schumacher and the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen.

        David Coulthard, coming off a victory two weeks ago in Monaco, was eighth in the other McLaren, while local favorite Jacques Villeneuve wound up ninth after he spun his BAR-Honda minutes before the end of qualifying.

        The elder Schumacher, 33, goes into Sunday's 69-lap race with five victories, a second and a third so far this season as he tries to match Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five Formula One championships.

        Although he got beat by his brother last June, Schumacher has been a force on the Canadian track. In 10 races here, he has seven finishes of second or better.

        In Montoya's only previous start here, he started 10th and crashed out after just 19 laps.

        “He has a lot more experience than me on this track, so the start will be very important,” Montoya said.

        Montoya started from the pole in Monaco but lost the lead before the first turn and failed to finish the race. He has had some problems with F1's new launch control, a device intended to allow the drivers to floor the accelerator on the start without getting wheelspin.

        “There's nothing I can do about it but try to get a good start,” he said. “My team says it is fixed and I have to believe them.”

        Schumacher also started alongside in Montoya's other pole start this year, in Brazil, and the two banged together on the first lap, sending the younger driver to the pit lane for a new front wing.

        An angry Montoya then charged from the rear of the field to finish fifth.

        The first two turns in the Canadian race, a quick left and then a hard right, have often been the scene of first-lap crashes.

        Asked if the start in Brazil is on his mind, Montoya shrugged and said, “I'm not worried about that. We just want to get a clean start.”

        Schumacher added, “It's going to be tight, but whoever has the best start does the job.”


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