x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Michael Schumacher outpaces Mark Webber at Monaco Grand Prix

But penalty will see German legend start from sixth on the grid on race day tomorrow.

Michael Schumacher greets the crowds after he clocked the fastest time in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Jens Buettner / EPA
Michael Schumacher greets the crowds after he clocked the fastest time in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. Jens Buettner / EPA

MONTE CARLO // Michael Schumacher, the venerated veteran fighting to prove his worth in an ever-evolving sport, set a sensational fastest lap on the streets of Monte Carlo today.

The seven-time world champion, however, will start tomorrow's Monaco Grand Prix in sixth, while Mark Webber of Red Bull Racing inherits pole position.

Schumacher's flying lap put him top of the qualifying time-sheets for the first time since the French Grand Prix in 2006, but the 43-year-old Mercedes-GP driver – who has won here five times – was relegated to the third row courtesy of a five-place grid penalty collected at the last race in Spain. His teammate Nico Rosberg will start second.

Last season, as world champion Sebastian Vettel dominated, the sight of a German pointing his index finger to the sky grew tiresome. Today, however, Schumacher's celebration was greeted with cheers from the packed grandstands and admiration in the paddock.

"First of all, I am more than thrilled and excited about making a pole here in Monaco," said Schumacher, a former Ferrari driver who returned to F1 in 2010 after a three-year hiatus. "Monaco to all of us is the track of the year, which has a very prestigious position, and to manage pole position here after what I have gone through in the past two-and-a-half years is just fabulous."

Speculation has surrounded Schumacher's seat this season and had heightened since Rosberg won his maiden grand prix in China last month. Yet Schumacher had maintained he was just lacking the backing of Lady Luck and arrived in Monaco confident.

"I said that I was going to take pole and start from sixth and win it; I leave it to others to say what it means," he said, beaming. "It confirms what I have felt for a long time, but you have to put it all together at the right time."

Schumacher said he was not sure whether his lap was enough – it was eight hundredths of a second quicker than Webber's – and watched the monitors around the track anxiously. "Then I saw the sign of No 1. It was beautiful. Monaco being so special and more of a driver's track, it is super fantastic if you do a special lap. It's nice to remind people I am around."

Webber gratefully accepted the opportunity to start at the front of the field on a circuit notorious for its difficulty to overtake, but acknowledged "it's Michael's day".

"Michael did a good lap, fair play to him, but it's nice to move up a position," he said. "Of all places, it's good to start definitely towards the front here."

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