Massa, Schumacher top grid at Suzuka

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Felipe Massa upstaged Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher by taking pole position on Saturday for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Suzuka, Japan:

Felipe Massa upstaged Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher by taking pole position on Saturday for the Japanese Grand Prix. Schumacher, with a possible Formula One title on the line in Sunday's race, was second, while reigning world champion Fernando Alonso starts from fifth position. Schumacher and Alonso are tied atop the drivers standings on 116 points after 16 races. Schumacher, who will retire after this season, could wrap up his eighth world title if he wins Sunday and Alonso drops out or finishes scoreless. Otherwise it goes down to the final race in Brazil. Massa qualified with a lap of 1 minute, 29.599 seconds on the 5.8-kilometer Suzuka circuit for his second career pole, ahead of Schumacher's 1:29.711. Massa, who earned pole before winning this season's Turkish GP, also bettered the previous best time for a pole position of 1:31.317 Schumacher set in 2002, the year of Ferrari's domination when it won 15 of 17 races. In contrast to Friday's early showers, the practice run took place in brilliant sunshine. But the skies clouded during qualifying and temperatures dropped. Toyota's Ralf Schumacher (1:29,989) and Jarno Trulli (1:30.039) were third and fourth, and will start on the second row ahead of Alonso who clocked 1:30.371. Schumacher's victory in Shanghai last weekend propelled him into a share of first place with Alonso on the driver's standings after trailing by 25 points with seven races to go. The victory was the 91st of the German's career and his fifth in the last seven races. Alonso started the season by winning six of the first nine races, the last coming in June at the Canadian Grand Prix. Schumacher has clinched the F1 title twice in Japan - in 2000 and 2003 - beating McLaren's Mika Hakkinen once and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen once. Overall, Schumacher has won at Suzuka six times. Alonso finished third here last year and Schumacher was fifth behind Raikkonen. Raikkonen was just 11th in qualifying, failing to make it into the final qualifying section. Alonso's Renault team is a point ahead of Schumacher's Ferrari outfit in the constructors' championship at 179-178. Sunday's F1 race is the last at Suzuka for a while as the Japanese GP moves to the Fuji track next year. (AP)

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