Ralf Schumacher puts Toyota on pole

Toyota shared the front row for the first time along with Honda-powered BAR.

india Updated: Oct 13, 2005 19:36 IST

Ralf Schumacher put Toyota on pole position for their home Japanese Grand Prix today while rain sent championship leaders McLaren to the back of the starting grid.

Formula One's two Japanese carmakers shared the front row for the first time, with Briton Jenson Button second for Honda-powered BAR.

McLaren, who lead Renault by two points in the constructors' standings with one race remaining after Japan, will have to fight from the rear after rain played havoc with their qualifying hopes.

Kimi Raikkonen, who has a 10-place penalty for an unscheduled engine change in yesterday's practice, was 17th.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya was classified 18th but he, Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Jordan's Tiago Monteiro failed to set a time.

"We've never worked so hard to come so low on the grid," declared team boss Ron Dennis, who said Raikkonen will still start 17th rather than last because "you can only lose 10 places against someone who set a time."

McLaren's hopes of clinching the title in Suzuka depend on them finishing first and second with Renault scoring no more than 1 point. Otherwise the battle will be decided in Shanghai next weekend.

Renault's newly-crowned champion Fernando Alonso qualified 16th but Italian Giancarlo Fisichella raised the French manufacturer's hopes of clawing back the lead with a second row position.

Button said he expected McLaren, winners of the last five races, to come through regardless.

"We will do everything we possibly can to have the best race we can but we've seen before, when Kimi has started at the back or Juan Pablo, that they are very strong - especially on a circuit like this.

"I think we will see them coming through the field very quickly," said the Briton, who will be making his 99th start still in search of a first win.

"But we can't go into this race feeling defeated already. We have to stay positive and look for the win, definitely.

First Published: Oct 13, 2005 19:36 IST