Schumi rolls back the years
Michael Schumacher was delighted on Saturday to prove he still has what it takes in Formula One with another fine performance in Monaco.
At the age of 43, the five-times winner of the Monaco Grand Prix again tamed the principality's mean and unforgiving streets to set the fastest time in Saturday's pulsating qualifying session.
But that time, of one minute 14.301secs, does not translate into the 69th pole position of his career as Schumacher will instead start from sixth on the grid in his Mercedes.
Schumacher will tomorrow serve a five-place grid penalty incurred for running into the back of Williams' Bruno Senna in the Spanish Grand Prix 13 days ago.
It means for the second successive race, and probably for the first time in F1, the man who been quickest in qualifying will not start on pole, as was the case with Lewis Hamilton in Spain.
And for the second successive race in which Schumacher has set the pole lap around Monaco, he will not lead away the field.
In 2006 he was stripped of pole and dumped to the back of the grid for his now infamous Rascasse incident during his days at Ferrari when he 'parked' his car to deprive Fernando Alonso of top spot.
Despite this latest penalty, there was no denying the satisfying smile that creased his face as he finally proved that age is no barrier to success in a seemingly young man's game.
Suggested to Schumacher he reminded people he does still have it, he replied: "Monaco is so special.
"Because of what it means to us here it is super-fantastic if you manage to do such a lap.
"I knew I was on a lap, but then you can never be sure because we have seen how close and how tight qualifying has been.
"I just managed to get it together perfectly, because everything was prepared and that is the nature of Formula One.
"It is very tricky these days. It's not always possible to have everything together at all times, but here and now we did.
"But reminding people I'm still around? Yup, that's a good point."
The seven-times champion would also appear to be something of a fortune-teller as he predicted today's events in his visit to Le Mans last weekend for MotoGP and again on Wednesday.
Now it remains to be seen whether he can deliver on the second half of the forecast.
"To manage pole position here after what I have gone through in the past two-and-a-half years is just fabulous, beautiful," said Schumacher.
"But I told you guys in the press conference I would take pole, start the race from sixth and I'm going to win it.
"That's what I'm here for and what I'm going to aim for. That's all I have in my mind. The past doesn't matter at all."
Jenson Button suggested Schumacher would be "kicking himself" for his incident with Senna, but it was not something the German wished to revisit.
Schumacher said: "I'm not thinking about two weeks ago. I'm just thinking about now and what will happen. I'm focused forward."
It means Red Bull's Mark Webber will start from pole, as he did in 2010 when he went on to win the race, his first for 15 races.
Webber said: "Michael did a good lap, and fair play to him.
"But it's nice to move up a position. Of all places, it's good to definitely start towards the front here."
There will be one Mercedes on the front row as Nico Rosberg lines up second, followed by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
As for the joint championship leaders, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is the last to benefit from Schumacher's penalty so will start from fifth, with reigning champion Sebastian Vettel ninth in his Red Bull.
Jenson Button, for the second successive race and first time since his wretched days with Honda at the end of 2008, starts outside the top 10, lining up 12th.