Schumacher stripped of pole after stopping on track

MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Michael Schumacher was stripped of the pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix after stewards ruled he deliberately stopped his car on the track during qualifying Saturday.

The seven-time world champion will start from the back of the back in Sunday's race, while Fernando Alonso will start from the pole. Mark Webber of Williams moved 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 on the track on the last turn.

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

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

While Schumacher was still waving to the cheering crowd, the stewards announced they had launched an investigation. Schumacher was called in to explain his actions, and he was held for more than an hour.

The stewards ruled 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."

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 qualifying.

Schumacher wasn't immediately available for comment, but he said after qualifying, "It was a misfortune at the end."

"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."

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 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 was 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 posted a 1:13.962.

Schumacher would have had a great advantage to start on the pole because 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 managed to avoid contact with the wall and didn't damage his car.

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

"I have my opinion and I won't tell it here," he said 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.