Kimi Raikkonen lines up third ahead of Lewis Hamilton, while Nico Rosberg took an excellent sixth for Williams.
Final practice saw Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa ahead of their respective team mates – raising the prospect of some interesting inter-teams battles in the second qualifying session of the year.
Robert Kubica, fourth, proved the BMWs have plenty of pace and Nico Rosberg continued the positive showing from Williams with sixth.
And once again, both Super Aguris were quicker than both Hondas.
The new white markers identifying the software qualifying tyres made it easier to see how the front-running teams were able to save soft tyres.
Honda weren’t afforded that luxury, though, as Jenson Button had to use a set of his soft tyres to set a time provisionally sixth quickest.
Team mate Rubens Barrichello aborted two runs to dart back into the pits and Button also was chasing the setup on his troublesome RA107.
The tightly packed midfield put even the Renaults in danger of being squeezed out in the first session, and they shot out of the pits on soft tyres with two minutes to spare.
The final dash was also complicated by Alexander Wurz trailling into the pits with apparent gearbox failure.
He was dropped along with the Spykers, Barrichello (who did get a lap in but was nine tenths slower than Button), Anthony Davidson (who blamed Vitantonio Liuzzi for baulking him) and Scott Speed.
The Renault’s late surge jumped them into third and fourth ahead of both Ferraris – but the Renaults had used the softer compound.
17. Scott Speed 1m 36.578s
18. Anthony Davidson 1m 36.816s
19. Rubens Barrichello 1m 36.827s
20. Alexander Wurz 1m 37.326s
21. Christijan Albers 1m 38.279s
22. Adrian Sutil 1m 38.415s
The cut for the first session was brutal and it wouldn’t get any easier in the second with the midfield runners separated by just hundredths of a second.
All the drivers sprinted straight out onto the track as the second session began to get a lap in on soft tyres as rain threatened to fall.
Alonso was first out and fastest in the initial frenzy, with Felipe Massa four tenths behind and Hamilton fractionally quicker than Raikkonen.
After that was a significant lull as drivers waited to see if it would rain. It didn’t, all they all came pouring out of the pits together with a little over two minutes remaining.
The only drivers not doing a second lap were the McLarens, Ferraris and Kubica. Rosberg did his early while the track was empty – which was probably a smart move.
A fine lap from Jarno Trulli saw him vault to seventh, and team mate Ralf Schumacher also made it into the top ten meaning both Toyotas had made it into the final session again.
But Renault suffered the double blow of both drivers failing to get through. Giancarlo Fisichella had a torrid lap and Heikki Kovalainen ran wide at turn six. The rookie at least beat his elder team mate.
11. Heikki Kovalainen 1m 35.630s
12. Giancarlo Fisichella 1m 35.706s
13. David Coulthard 1m 35.766s
14. Takuma Sato 1m 35.945s
15. Jenson Button 1m 36.088s
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi 1m 36.145s
The concerns over rain seemed to have abated as the final session began and the top ten trundled out onto the circuit to burn fuel.
Rosberg was the first to get a competitive lap in at 1m 37.807s, but that was still lower than the quicker runners had managed during the first phase.
Alonso set a 1m 3.682s to go quickest but Massa’s time for second place was, unusually, one he had set during the early part of the session. Raikkonen was six tenths slower than Alonso in the second sector, suggesting a much heavier fuel load, and Hamilton fourth.
As they began their final laps the BMWs were in their now customary fifth and sixth, ahead of the Toyotas and then Webber and Rosberg.
But in the final rush of laps Massa revealed how much time he had in hand by seizing the pole from Alonso by three tenths of a second. Raikkonen couldn’t move up from third and Hamilton (who confessed to backing off too much when he saw rain on his visor) was over half a second further back in fourth.
The biggest surprise of the session was Nico Rosberg who split the BMWs to take sixth for Williams.
1. Felipe Massa 1m 35.043s
2. Fernando Alonso 1m 35.310s
3. Kimi Raikkonen 1m 35.479s
4. Lewis Hamilton 1m 36.045s
5. Nick Heidfeld 1m 36.543s
6. Nico Rosberg 1m 36.829s
7. Robert Kubica 1m 36.896s
8. Jarno Trulli 1m 36.902s
9. Ralf Schumacher 1m 37.078s
10. Mark Webber 1m 37.345s