It was the 40th pole position for the German but just his first on the Silverstone circuit
Schumi grabs pole at British Grand Prix

SILVERSTONE, England, July 14 (AFP) - Three-time world champion Michael Schumacher grabbed his eighth pole position this season with the fastest time in Saturday's qualifying for the British Grand Prix.

It was the 40th pole position for the German but just his first on the Silverstone circuit where he will attempt to tie the all-time record for Formula One victories here Sunday.

The reigning world champion who has a runaway lead in this year's championship is seeking to equal Frenchman Alain Prost's record of 51 Formula One victories at this, the 11th in the 17-race series.

The German led the way on the 5.141-kilometer circuit, clocking 1min 20.447sec in his Ferrari, coming in 0.082sec ahead of Mika Hakkinen, with the Finn's McLaren team-mate David Coulthard of Britain 0.48 behind in third.

In the morning practice sessions a steady drizzle made times nearly 10 seconds slower than Friday's practice.

The sun came out before qualifying started but teams were reluctant to go out and dry the track for others.

Therefore no car started a lap until 24 minutes into the one-hour session and no real action began until Schumacher started his first lap after more than 30 minutes.

"It was a difficult and interesting session because there was only half an hour to go when most people decided to leave the pits," said Schumacher.

"Then the monitors did not work so we did not get any lap times so we did not know if we were faster or slower."

As the track got hotter and faster there was a traffic jam with most of the 22 cars out, especially in the final minutes.

Hakkinen did 1:20.897 and bettered it to 1:20.626.

Schumacher countered that with a 1:20.447 with less than seven minutes to go.

All 22 cars were out on the track with two minutes to go and only Hakkinen among the leaders improved with 1:20.529. Schumacher did not have to complete his final lap with his pole position clinched.

Schumacher was pleased to see Hakkinen with him on the front row.

"Obviously he has had a tough year so it is nice for him to be back," Schumacher said.

Hakkinen is still trying to salvage a dismal season for McLaren-Mercedes.

"I think I lost time on the last two corners when I was behind a Benetton," said Hakkinen, who was nevertheless satisifed with his second position.

"It has been a long time being this close to the folks so I am mainly pleased. I'm confident for tomorrow. I feel the performance of the car is very consistent," added the Finn.

Coulthard also needs a good performance to turnaround a poor season which has included three times stalling on the starting grid and a last lap clutch failure when he was leading the Spanish Grand Prix.

"The front row is always an advantage. Pole is always an advantage because obviously you have clear air (in front)," Coulthard said. "But as you have seen this year, it isn't always the pole man that wins and so much can happen in a race."

Coulthard is looking to become the first British driver since Jim Clark to win three British Grand Prix in a row. Clark won five, including four straight, between 1962 and 1967.

Schumacher now has a 78-47 lead over Coulthard with seven races to go in the season.

If Coulthard fails close the gap this weekend, it would be virtually impossible to catch Schumacher in the remaining races, barring injury or incidents.

Of the 10 races so far, Schumacher has six wins with the other four being split among Coulthard and Schumacher's brother Ralf.

In other practice times, Italy's Jarno Trulli of Jordan-Honda came up in fourth with 1:20.930 ahead of German teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen in 1:21.217.

Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello was next with 1:21.715. Last year Barrichello had the pole in 1:25.703 while Schumacher was just fifth.