Germany's two-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher took pole position here on Saturday
Schumacher strikes back to take pole

MONTREAL, June 17 (AFP) - Germany's two-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher took pole position here on Saturday for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix - the fifth time he has managed that here and 26th of his career - after a fantastic duel with his main rival Scotland's David Coulthard.

The 31-year-old Ferrari driver, who leads Coulthard by 12 points in this year's title race, posted a time of 1min 18.439sec to edge out Coulthard in his McLaren, who recorded a fastest time of 1:18.537.

However, Schumacher, who literally took pole in the last seconds, recognised that he would have to drive a masterful race on Sunday if he was to see off Coulthard, who won at Monaco a fortnight ago.

"David is getting stronger and stronger," the German said.

However, Schumacher was relieved that his teammate Rubens Barrichello had posted the third fastest time pushing Finland's reigning champion Mika Hakkinen into fourth in his McLaren.

"That was important because it gives me only one McLaren to worry about initially if Rubens can hold Mika at the start," he said.

Coulthard, who has driven like a dream since his miraculous escape from a private plane crash in Lyon, France, in early May that left the pilot and co-pilot dead, was not in the least bit disappointed to have given second best to the German.

"I wasn't a bit disappointed to be beaten by Michael for pole," the genial Scot said.

"Because I am ultra-confident that my car can go better than his in the race on Sunday," he added.

While all was smiles in the Ferrari and McLaren stables there was little to celebrate for the Jaguar team as Johnny Herbert finished 11th and Schumacher's former Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine a miserable 16th - his worst qualifying performance of the season.

It wasn't much fun either for the Williams team as Michael's younger brother Ralf finished 12th fastest and young Englishman Jenson Button has it all to do in a Grand Prix he described as being vital to his remaining at the former number one team next season by finishing 18th.