KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 16 (UPI) -- Michael Schumacher gave Ferrari its second pole position in as many races Saturday in qualifying for the the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit.
A four-time champion and winner of the series title the last two years, the 33-year-old German beat his own record of 1:35.520 set here last year when he lapped in 1:35.266 to qualify ahead of the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia by only two-tenths of a second.
Schumacher, who averaged 129.868 miles per hour around the 3.44-mile circuit during the hour-long session, captured his 54th career victory two weeks ago in Australia after teammate Ruben Barrichello of Brazil won the pole.
"After Australia, everyone was saying it was going to be easy for us, but today proved the situation is tight and I think it will an interesting race tomorrow," he said after notching his 44th career pole. "This pole is the result of the good preparation job we did yesterday and I think I can say the car was perfect."
The pole also was Ferrari's 150th all time. Last year, the famed Italian car maker had the top two finishers as Schumacher won for this race for the second year in a row.
Montoya recorded the day's best time but the time did not hold. He finished the last race second to Schumacher.
"It's a bit disappointing that I could not put all my three best sectors together, as otherwise I would be on pole position now," Montoya said. "But I am obviously happy to start this Grand Prix from the first row, as this gives us the potential to take some points for the team."
Barrichello will start from third on the gird, claiming the spot late in the waning seconds of the session.
"I am happy with my final lap time, even though one always things one can go quicker," he said. "At the start of the session, I took time to find the right setup as the car had felt more together in the morning on old tires. It was very tight for a time at the end and that meant there was more pressure. But the track was quicker at the end and then it was a matter of getting a clear lap."
Ralf Schumacher qualified fourth in his Williams-BMW after suffering from a few minor set-up problems.
McLaren-Mercedes drivers Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and David Coulthard of Scotland will start from the third row, while Germany's Nick Heidfeld put his Sauber seventh and Britain's Jenson Button will open Sunday's race from the eighth spot in his Renault.
Sunday's race will be 56 laps for a total of 189.42 miles.