Giancarlo Fisichella stuns with Spa pole position (Belgian Grand Prix qualifying)

Giancarlo Fisichella scored his first pole position since Sepang 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella scored his first pole position since Sepang 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella’s morning got off to a bad start when he hit a rabbit during practice and had to replace his front wing.

But he seized his opportunity in an unpredictable qualifying session to grab his first pole posiiton in three years – and Force India’s first ever.

Q1

Qualifying at Spa began in cool conditions with the track temperature around 25C. The temperature proved critical during the session as the teams struggled to pick the most suitable tyres for the conditions. Unusually, the softer tyre was often not the way to go.

Toyota seemed to be revelling in the track and the conditions to begin with, with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock heading the times sheets.

At first the Brawns were behind them, showing some improvement in their low-temperature performance. Nick Heidfeld then took over as fastest driver, maintaining his form from practice.

As the final set of laps began the bottom five places were occupied by Romain Grosjean, Nico Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima, Jaime Alguersuari and Luca Badoer.

There were differing fortunes for the three Italians at the end of the session. Jarno Trulli took over the top spot, then lost it to Giancarlo Fisichella, who did three laps on the medium tyre to set his time. Remarkably the Force India driver was still on top at the end of Q1. It would prove not to be a one-off.

Luca Badoer, however, cut the Les Combes chicane and crashed into the barriers on his last effort, nearly taking out Sebastian Vettel as he went. Rumours suggest Fisichella could be in his car at the Italian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton had a poor final lap which left him vulnerable as the session drew to a close. He ended up 15th, just one place and two tenths of a second above the drop zone.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1’45.951
17. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1’46.032
18. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams-Toyota – 1’46.307
19. Romain Grosjean, Renault – 1’46.359
20. Luca Badoer, Ferrari – 1’46.957

Q2

Jarno Trulli was the fastest driver again as the second part of qualifying started. Behind him the Red Bulls began to show their pace, as did the Brawns.

But the times were extraordinarily close – with six minutes to go Rubens Barrichello in fifth was only 0.17s faster than Adrian Sutil in 11th.

Fernando Alonso, Sutil, Heidfeld, Kovalainen and Rosberg occupied the bottom five as the final laps began. Rosberg only emerged from the pits once, running a sequence of laps in the hope of building up to a quick enough time.

Fisichella once again set the fastest time, just as Hamilton was struggling to set the tenth-fastest time, a mere 0.014s quicker than Alonso. But as Heidfeld and Rosberg improved Hamilton and Alonso were squeezed out.

But the biggest surprise of all was Jenson Button, who wasn’t able to get a good time out of the soft tyres and ended up 14th an eliminated from qualifying. He was 0.4s slower than team mate Barrichello, who was sixth.

A stunning session ended with Fisichella top of the times ahead of Robert Kubica and Vettel – and some very big names knocked out.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes – 1’45.119
12. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes – 1’45.122
13. Fernando Alonso, Renault – 1’45.136
14. Jenson Button, Brawn-Mercedes – 1’45.251
15. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes – 1’45.259

Q3

The final part of qualifying saw a surprising line-up compromising both BMWs, Toyotas and Red Bulls, plus Giancarlo Fisichella, Kimi Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg.

Most of the cars began the session on soft tyres but, as Button has discovered, they proved not to be quick enough. All the drivers bar Raikkonen pitted and switched back to the medium tyres.

Nick Heidfeld beat Raikkonen’s time on his second lap on hard tyres, but Fisichella’s penultimate run – a 1’46.308 – was too quick for any of them. Jarno Trulli got closest, with a 1’46.395 on his final effort, but had to settle for second.

Continuing an unpredictable grid, Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica took third and fifth for BMW, sandwiching Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn.

The fuel weights will make interesting reading when they’re published later. But for now, it’s Fisichella and Force India’s moment to savour.

Update: Fuel weights have been announced: Trulli in strong position to beat Fisichella (Belgian Grand Prix fuel and strategy)

Read more: Belgian Grand Prix grid

Top ten drivers in Q3

1. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India-Mercedes – 1’46.308
2. Jarno Trulli, Toyota – 1’46.395
3. Nick Heidfeld, BMW – 1’46.500
4. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn-Mercedes – 1’46.513
5. Robert Kubica, BMW – 1’46.586
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1’46.633
7. Timo Glock, Toyota – 1’46.677
8. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault – 1’46.761
9. Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault – 1’46.788
10. Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota – 1’47.362

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85 comments on Giancarlo Fisichella stuns with Spa pole position (Belgian Grand Prix qualifying)

  1. Kevin C said on 29th August 2009, 15:31

    To be honest, I would have bet on Sutil for pole, not Fisichella if I had to choose between the Force Indias.

    Kimi or Rubens for the win.

  2. I’m off to collect my winnings – I had £30 on Fisi to get pole.

  3. Bendana said on 29th August 2009, 15:35

    Did anyone else’s jaw drop throughout that session?

    …Twice?

  4. jambmoz said on 29th August 2009, 15:40

    kimi has a great chance if hes got a good fuel load, he should get a good start with his kers.

  5. Arun.India said on 29th August 2009, 15:43

    After a long time the Formula1 session really surprised me……..After a monotonous first half the second half is come alive……I doubt Fisi or Dr Mallya even in their wildest dreams would have thought of pole……..Seriously surprised me in all the 3 sessions….Go fisi GO!!!!!

  6. Anyone notice the Red Bull cars are back to the narrow nose section rather than the platypus style, kind of wide at the front, nose this wekend. STR still using the platypus nose. Must be an aero thing?

  7. pSynrg said on 29th August 2009, 15:48

    Just brilliant!

  8. Bigbadderboom said on 29th August 2009, 16:45

    I watched quali on a grainy old tv set in a hospital waiting room (missus fractured her leg), the signal kept disappearing, god I do wonder where all my taxes go, you would at least think i could get a digital tv reception in hospital. Had interesting chat with a guy who said to me as quali started he though the Force Indias would be quick, I sniggered and he left before the end of Q2, now i’m wondering who he was!!!!!!

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th August 2009, 16:47

    The stewards have announced Mark Webber impeded another driver during qualifying. He has been given a reprimand and will not get a penalty.

  10. Shagrathian (@shagrathian) said on 29th August 2009, 16:49

    Another fairy tale of this season.(Other one’s Brawn’s, for sure)
    Force India and McLaren made most improvement throughout the season, beyond question. Good for them.
    For victory, my money’s on Raikkonen/Barichello. Rubinho’s hunting some points for the title.
    It should be an awesome race. Can’t wait.

  11. what was the deal with vettel and webber on last lap, it looked to me seb held up webber and then ducked into pits late…not mention anywhere, but from the footage I saw, from the car following, it seemed that webber was held up at the last lap last corner

    Didn’t catch that, but it seems Webber has gotten a penalty, so you mighyt have confused the two? I was looking for car weights and came across this: http://fia.com/en-GB/mediacentre/f1_media/Documents/bel09_document_23.pdf

    Looks like he’ll be getting a Penalty on top of his poor qualifying result.

  12. I am really happy for Fisichella. I hope he can get some points tomorrow, possibly a podium if everything goes right for him. Well done Fisi.

  13. Hammad said on 29th August 2009, 17:07

    Oh man this one I had to have seen… didn’t wake up :(

  14. Fuel weights are in: http://fia.com/en-GB/mediacentre/f1_media/Documents/bel09_document_24.pdf

    He’s the second lightest (next to Rubens), but doesn’t seem to be rediculously light. Trulli and Heidfeld are both looking strong, as does Raikonnen really, with his superpowers.

  15. Wesley said on 29th August 2009, 17:20

    With Raikkonen,Barrichello,Vettel and Webber so close to the front this should be a VERY interesting race.I hope Heidfeld can hold onto his podium though.At least he could end his BMW years with a Spa podiumn.

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