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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
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

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas