Juan Montoya scorched to his first Formula One pole position at Hockenheim, as rising temperatures played straight into the hands of Michelin, BMW and Williams.

The Colombian looked set to have to play second fiddle to team-mate, and home hero, Ralf Schumacher, before pulling out a lap almost as searing as the conditions which accompanied the timed hour.

Schumacher had led the way from almost as soon as the 'big guns' had come out to play, knocking the two McLarens off the front row and never being troubled by his brother's Ferrari. His first flying lap was registered at 1min 38.458secs, faster than he or anyone else had gone all weekend, and his second shaved another three-tenths off that mark to threaten the 1min 37s.

Just when it looked as though top spot was all sewn up, however, Montoya decided to join the party.

A favourite among insiders to land his first grand prix win at Hockenheim, the Colombian had been on the pace throughout the free practice sessions. His first run had tailed Schumacher by a tenth but, despite an improvement from the other side of the garage, Montoya was not to be deterred.

A clear second run converted the latent potential into pole position by knocking a scant 0.019secs from his team-mate's time on his second run, despite running his left rear through the gravel at the exit of the final corner. Neither driver could improve thereafter, as traffic conspired against them in the closing stages, but it mattered little. The rest of the field was a massive half second adrift.

Michael Schumacher has remarkably never taken pole position for his home race, and he was prevented from even starting immediately behind the top spot in 2001 as Mika Hakkinen stole his thunder in the lead McLaren.

Once again, it was not all plain sailing for the Finn, however, as he suffered a minor recurrence of the electric problems that forced him make a slow start to the day. Nevertheless, his first flying run was good enough to depose McLaren team-mate David Coulthard from provisional pole, and his second good enough to ensure that silver followed blue-and-white on the grid.

Schumacher Sr could only manage fourth place on his first outing, the result of overdriving as much as anything else. Too often, the scarlet Ferrari could be seen spitting gravel and taking handfuls of kerb, as the world champion wrestled it around the tight chicanes that litter the Hockenheim layout.

Things didn't get any easier for Schumacher on his second run either, as a glitch with the F2001 forced the German to trail back into the pits at the end of his out lap, and a return to the track yielded only a small improvement in time, if not position.

All attempts at improving on the fourth and final run were negated by the appearance of yellow flags in the Stadium section, leaving the sharp end of the grid static through the traditional 'rush hour'.

David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello ensured a little bit of symmetry between rows two and three, when the Scot finally got the better of his Ferrari counterpart and took fifth position. The McLaren man had been off the track during the morning free practice sessions, losing a lot of valuable track time in which he may have been able to cure a handling imbalance that had plagues his MP4-16 all weekend. Instead, Coulthard was left to make adjustments throughout the hour, eventually pegging Barrichello back on his third attempt.

Sauber underlined the promise it had shown in the morning, placing both cars in the top eight. Nick Heidfeld, literally given a lift by basketball star Shaquille O'Neal in the Sauber pits before the session, continued his good form of late to take seventh spot, ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn's effort was also noteworthy, as he had 'languished' at the bottom of the top twelve through earlier sessions.

Jaguar's Pedro de la Rosa also confirmed the promise shown by his team this weekend, finally getting the better of an intra-team battle with Eddie Irvine and sealing a place in the top ten. Irvine, fastest of all on Friday, was only a tenth slower, but will grid two places behind the Spaniard, such is the competition in midfield.

The situation is heightened by the presence of the four Honda-powered cars in the mix, instead of taking their usual places with Sauber immediately behind the top six. Jarno Trulli's afternoon was hindered by a late engine failure that had him scurrying through the forest in search of a lift back to the pits. Sadly, he never made it, completing just eight laps of his allotted twelve and taking only tenth instead of the hoped for top eight.

This nevertheless allowed Trulli and Jordan to take the mantle of leading Honda runner although, on a day such as this, the crown looked mildly tarnished. Jacques Villeneuve looked a good prospect for the last spot in the top ten, but missed out in the final round of improvements, and heads BAR team-mate Olivier Panis is positions twelve and 13. Jordan replacement Ricardo Zonta was badly held up by the Frenchman on his first run, and languished down in 20th spot for a while, before slowly climbing the order. The Brazilian eventually came to rest in 15th on his first race back since Canada.

Between Zonta and Panis lay Jean Alesi, again making the most of a low downforce set-up and Ferrari power to lift the leading Prost away from the basement battle. Team-mate Luciano Burti was not quite so fortunate and, despite annexing 16th, prompted the end of session yellows by burying his AP04 into the tyre wall in the Stadium section.

He was joined in late ignominy by Benetton's Jenson Button, whose Renault engine expired in the biggest possible way as he drove past the stricken Prost, losing a place to team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella in the process. The two Enstone cars will line up on row nine.

Surprisingly, given their prodigious speed down the straights, the two Arrows entries comprised the filling between Benetton and Minardi at the tail end. Both Jos Verstappen and Enrique Bernoldi had taken their turn on provisional pole before the 'names' emerged from pit-lane, but the ultra-low downforce set-up that enabled them to out-perform the likes of Ferrari through the speed traps took its toll in the twisty bits, leaving Brazilian ahead of Dutchman on row ten.

Minardi brought up the rear, its four-year old engine design not helping it in the slightest around the flat-out sections of Hockenheim, but both Fernando Alonso and Tarso Marques comfortably beat the cut-off mark and will race tomorrow.

 

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