Schumi stripped of Monaco pole
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Schumi stripped of Monaco pole

7-time world champion Schumacher will start from back of grid in today's race.

india Updated: May 28, 2006 12:35 IST

Michael Schumacher was stripped of pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix after stewards ruled he deliberately stopped his car on the circuit during Saturday's qualifying.

The seven-time world champion will start from the back of the grid in Sunday's race, while Fernando Alonso will start from pole with Mark Webber of Williams moving up to second.

After setting the fastest lap of 1 minute, 13.898 seconds early in the final section of qualifying, Schumacher appeared to lose control of his Ferrari on his final lap and stalled out on the track on the final turn.

Others, including defending world champion Alonso, were behind him trying to set a fastest lap.

Alonso had looked like he was about to do it, but had to slow down and avoid Schumacher's car and ended up second fastest.

While Schumacher was still waving to the crowd cheering him for getting pole position, the stewards announced they had launched an investigation into the incident.

Schumacher was called in to explain his actions and he was held for more than an hour. "(There was) no justifiable reason (to stop) with such undue excessive and unusual pressure at this part of the circuit and therefore left (us with) no alternative but to conclude that the driver deliberately stopped his car on the circuit," the stewards ruling said.

Almost eight hours after the session ended and after viewing evidence and comparing data, the stewards ruled that it was a driving infringement and deleted all his times from the qualifying and "the driver will start the race from the back of the grid." Schumacher was not immediately available for comment. The ruling gives Alonso his third straight pole this season. Before the ruling, Alonso had no doubt he lost the pole because of Schumacher.

"I would have been on pole for sure today without the problem on the final lap," he said. "To lose my fastest lap due to an accident from somebody else is not a good moment _ but I suppose these things happen in Monaco."

The Renault driver - who had been fastest in two of the three practice sessions - was beating Schumacher's time through the first two sections but had to slow to avoid Schumacher and ended second with 1:13.962.

Schumacher would have had a great advantage to start on pole as passing on the tight track is extremely difficult. But the stewards looked at the times in various sectors of Schumacher laps and concluded he stopped deliberately. They heard evidence from Schumacher, various team members, and the FIA race director.

Schumacher, who has not won at Monte Carlo since 2001, is one victory short of equaling the late Ayrton Senna's record here. Before the steward's decision, the German he had simply made a mistake.

"I went wide, I locked the wheels. I wasn't sure what was going on," Schumacher said. "You push and go for it and that was a bit too much. If the engine is running like that, it switches off. I guess that is what happened."

Schumacher managed to avoid contact with the wall and didn't damage his car.

At "the last corner I was three-tenths (of a second) quicker," said Alonso, who has never won in Monaco. "I was performing really well. Now we have to wait until tomorrow."

Alonso said he saw the yellow flags _ which tell drivers that there is danger ahead and be prepared to slow down. Stewards also check to make sure a driver does not set his fastest time in that section.

"At that moment you are so close, anything that could go wrong in final corner you lose the advantage," Alonso said. "Michael was on the outside and in the line."

While Renault director of engineering Pat Symonds had described Schumacher's move as "suspicious," Alonso had avoided a direct criticism of Schumacher's maneuver.

"I have my opinion and I won't tell it here," he told reporters at the pole position news conference before briskly getting up and walking out without acknowledging Schumacher.

Out of the six races this season, Alonso has won three, Schumacher two, and Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella one.

First Published: May 28, 2006 03:30 IST