MONTE CARLO, Monaco, AP
David Coulthard, seeking his second straight victory, gained the pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix by edging three-time defending Formula One champion Michael Schumacher in the final seconds of Saturday’s qualifying. Coulthard put himself in good position to win Sunday’s 78-lap race, since overtaking is exceptionally difficult on the Mediterranean principality’s narrow, twisting street course. A four-time winner in Monaco, Schumacher led the one-hour qualifying session until Coulthard’s last run as time ran out. Coulthard set a time of one minute, 17.430 seconds in his fastest lap over the 3.37-kilometer (2.094-mile) course. This was the fastest lap ever recorded in Monaco, although the course has changed over the years. The previous best was 108.216 set by Heinz-Harald Frentzen in 1997. Coulthard and his McLaren-Mercedes teammate Mika Hakkinen of Finland, who had been the fastest in practice, dominated the early part of the session, swapping leads about halfway into the trial. But with less than 20 minutes left, Schumacher had a clear track and he took advantage to set the new pace of one minute, 17.631 seconds in his Ferrari. Hakkinen returned to the track with just over 10 minutes left and came within 0.118 seconds of Schumacher, but could not beat the German’s time. Schumacher’s time stood, until Coulthard came out to gain his second pole of the season and the 12th of his career. Schumacher had a chance to beat Coulthard’s time, but he brushed the barrier in his final attempt.
Hakkinen stayed third and Rubens Barrichello of Brazil in the second Ferrari was fourth. Ralf Schumacher, Michael’s younger brother, was fifth in a Williams BMW and Eddie Irvine of Britain in a Jaguar was sixth. Juan Pablo Montoya, the Colombian trying to become the first driver to win the Monaco Grand Prix in his rookie Formula One season, was seventh in his Williams. Coulthard, coming off a fine victory at the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago, could vault past Schumacher in the drivers’ standings if he wins the Sunday’s race. With two victories this season, Coulthard is four points behind Schumacher, 42 38. He is the only driver to pick up points in all six races so far this season.