May 26 (GMM/ Michael Schumacher’s critics will be silent on Saturday as the seven time world champion aced qualifying at Monaco.

A multiple winner in the Principality, the Mercedes driver has often struggled since returning to F1 in 2010.

But he was the fastest on the Cote d’Azur on Saturday.

“I’m grateful to all the trust Mercedes had in me,” said the delighted German.

“I’m able to give back a little bit in qualifying and hope I can give more back tomorrow.”

Team boss Ross Brawn, who also worked closely with the 43-year-old German at Ferrari years ago, commented: “I have to confess it took a little tear from my eye.”

However, despite Brawn telling Schumacher on the radio he is a “little star”, the German will in fact not start from pole, due to the five-place grid penalty imposed in Barcelona two weeks ago for running into Bruno Senna.

“The penalty is frustrating but that’s the way it is,” Brawn told the BBC.

Also penalised on Saturday was Barcelona winner Pastor Maldonado, who qualified ninth in his Williams.

The Venezuelan moves back ten places to a lowly nineteenth, with the stewards taking a dim view of his aggressive chop on Sergio Perez in morning practice.

Schumacher’s penalty means Mark Webber will start Sunday’s race from pole, with struggling Sebastian Vettel’s sister Red Bull just tenth.