Schumacher takes pole in Malaysian GP

Already-crowned Formula One champ Michael Schumacher won the pole position today ahead of rival Mika Hakkinen for the season's final race. But the real tension came in a simmering off-track feud between two of the sport's most powerful figures.

Already-crowned Formula One champ Michael Schumacher won the pole position today ahead of rival Mika Hakkinen for the season's final race. But the real tension came in a simmering off-track feud between two of the sport's most powerful figures.

Ferrari's German ace, hoping to win for the Italian team Sunday its first double-title in the driver and constructor categories since 1979, blazed in with a qualifying performance nearly a half-second better than archrival Mika Hakkinen, a two-time champion driving for McLaren-Mercedes.

But the qualifying was overshadowed by a harsh exchange of letters between Max Mosley, president of the sport's governing body, and McLaren team boss Ron Dennis.

They are in conflict over recent comments Dennis made that appeared critical of the way the International Automobile Federation, or FIA, was handling the series.

"You do a lot of damage when, as a team principal, you constantly suggest that the F1 World Championship is not fairly run," Mosley said in his four-page letter, released to the media Saturday.

At the Japanese Grand Prix two weeks ago, Dennis appeared to object to the appointment of an Italian, Robert Causo, as a permanent steward in Formula One. Mosley said the comments implied that Causo would not be impartial in matters pitting Italy-based Ferrari against McLaren, a British team.

Dennis also criticized the way another FIA official, technical delegate Charlie Whiting, handled a new interpretation of a rule defining unsportsmanlike behavior as it concerns a teammate blocking out an opponent to preserve the lead of his partner.

Mosley's sharply worded letter prompted a retreat by Dennis, whose letter said he had no intention of questioning the integrity of FIA or Causo.

"I sincerely believe that a careful analysis of my public comments over the course of the weekend will show that I was in fact fair and circumspect," Dennis wrote, saying he wanted to meet Mosley to put the comments "into their true context."

Back on the track, Schumacher took his ninth pole position of the season. He has won the last three races starting from the pole and two weeks ago clinched the season title by winning the Japanese Grand Prix, going an insurmountable 12 points in front of Hakkinen.

Schumacher now has 32 career pole positions, tying him with Nigel Mansell for fourth on the all-time list.

Schumacher's Ferrari timed 1 minute, 37.397 seconds around the 5.543-kilometer (3.44-mile) Sepang circuit, averaging 204.881 kilometers per hour (127.334 mph). Hakkinen came it at 1:37.860 and McLaren teammate David Coulthard was third at 1:37.889. Rubens Barrichello, completing his first season with Ferrari, was fourth at 1:37.896.

"Being four-and-a-half tenths quicker than the others means I am relaxed about tomorrow," Schumacher said.

"There's no pressure," Schumacher said. "We all know what the situation is. We all race because we just love it. You can drive freely and as good as you can."

Ferrari is on the verge of a double title as it leads Hakkinen's McLaren team by 13 points. If the results of qualifying are duplicated in the 56-lap race, Ferrari would gain the title with points awarded on a 10-6-4-3-2-1 basis.

Ferrari has scored at least four points in every race this season.

Alexander Wurz of Benetton-Playlife, newly-signed as McLaren test driver for next year, was fifth at 1:38.644.

"To qualify right behind the Ferraris and the McLarens is like pole position for me," Wurz said.

Sunday's race is the second Grand Prix in Malaysia. The sport has a big fan in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has ruled this Southeast Asian country for 19 years.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy