MONACO, May 25: Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya elbowed world champion Michael Schumacher off the front row and seized pole position for Williams in Sunday’s Monaco Formula One Grand Prix.
Montoya blasted around the harbour-side street circuit in one minute 16.676 seconds, completing his dramatic final dash moments after the session had ended to line up alongside McLaren’s David Coulthard.
“No problems. I made one or two little mistakes but it didn’t really cost me much time,” he said, looking relaxed next to sore-eyed Schumacher, who had been second until the final seconds.
The German, who qualified third for the second race in succession and is seeking Ferrari’s 150th win on Sunday, had something in his eye from early on in the session and was still suffering from irritation.
“I don’t know if there’s something still inside or if its just the follow-up. I need to check later,” he said.
The Colombian’s time shredded the lap record of 1:17.430 set by Coulthard in qualifying last year and brought him his second pole of the season.
Last season he crashed on the second lap in Monaco.
Coulthard was held up on his final run and was 0.392 of a second slower than Montoya. But the 2001 overall championship runner-up can still look forward to his first front row start since Hungary last year.
“We were very competitive all the way through qualifying so yes, you could logically say this is the best chance we have of victory,” said the Scot who has taken just 10 points in six races this year.
“I think we’ve got a great chance.”
Schumacher will start alongside his younger brother Ralf, winner in Malaysia, in the second Williams.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, Schumacher’s team mate who was forced to give way to the German at the last race in Austria, was fifth fastest alongside the second McLaren driven by young Finn Kimi Raikkonen.
Schumacher will be chasing a record-equalling sixth Monaco win on Sunday and his sixth in seven races.
He leads the championship by 27 points from Montoya.
The Ferrari driver, booed in Austria, struggled with an electronic problem in practice that limited his morning track time and had to abort a qualifying run.
“The first run I aborted because there was a big oil cloud in the tunnel and I was worried that there might be oil on the circuit,” he said.
Asked if he was worried that Michelin, who supply tyres to Williams and McLaren, seemed to have an advantage in Monaco, the German said: “We kept saying that it can turn around very quickly and maybe that’s proof of it now unfortunately. Anyway we are not miles away in race condition.
“We haven’t got it together in qualifying but I think we can be reasonably competitive tomorrow.”
The Renaults of Italian Jarno Trulli and Briton Jenson Button qualified seventh and eighth while newcomers Toyota were impressive with ninth and 10th for Finland’s Mika Salo and Briton Allan McNish respectively.
Trulli, who had been fastest throughout practice, and Button both slammed Sauber’s Brazilian rookie Felipe Massa for holding them up.
Australian Mark Webber qualified his Minardi above both Jaguars while Malaysian team mate Alex Yoong had to scramble into the spare after smashing his racecar at the first Sainte Devote corner on his initial flying lap.
Grid positions: 1. Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia) Williams one minute 16.676 seconds (average speed 158.224 kph); 2. David Coulthard (Britain) McLaren 1:17.068; 3. Michael Schumacher (Germany) Ferrari 1:17.118; 4. Ralf Schumacher (Germany) Williams 1:17.274; 5. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Ferrari 1:17.357; 6. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) McLaren 1:17.660; 7. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Renault 1:17.710; 8. Jenson Button (Britain) Renault 1:18.132; 9. Mika Salo (Finland) Toyota 1:18.234; 10. Allan McNish (Britain) Toyota 1:18.292; 11. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy) Jordan 1:18.342; 12. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany) Arrows 1:18.607; 13. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Sauber 1:19.006; 14. Jacques Villeneuve (Canada) BAR 1:19.252; 15. Enrique Bernoldi (Brazil) Arrows 1:19.412; 16. Takuma Sato (Japan) Jordan 1:19.461; 17. Nick Heidfeld (Germany) Sauber 1:19.500; 18. Olivier Panis (France) BAR 1:19.569; 19. Mark Webber (Australia) Minardi 1:19.674; 20. Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) Jaguar 1:19.796; 21. Eddie Irvine (Britain) Jaguar 1:20.139; 22. Alex Yoong (Malaysia) Minardi 1:21.599—Reuters