Renault's Fernando Alonso held off the competition to maintain his front of the grid status in second qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix and clocked an aggregate time of 3:07.672 for pole position. The Toyota of Jarno Trulli and Alonso's ...
Renault's Fernando Alonso held off the competition to maintain his front of the grid status in second qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix and clocked an aggregate time of 3:07.672 for pole position. The Toyota of Jarno Trulli and Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella also held station to start this afternoon's race in second and third respectively.
It was hot and humid for Sunday morning's qualifying and the track temperature was in the mid forties as Minardi's Christijan Albers got the session under way. The Dutchman set an aggregate time of 3:23.001 and teammate Patrick Friesacher was nearly two seconds quicker, to go ahead with a 3:21.186.
Tiago Monteiro led out for Jordan and had more than a second's advantage on the Minardis after yesterday's qualifying. He clocked 3:17.962, widening the gap to over three seconds, and the second yellow car of Narain Karthikeyan was slightly faster, 3:17.656.
Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve, the subject of much speculation since Melbourne, was four and a half seconds up for 3:12.995 and he was followed by BAR's Anthony Davidson. Standing in for Takuma Sato, who is unwell, Davidson was a second quicker than Villeneuve, 3:11.890.
Rubens Barrichello was the first Ferrari out, after the team's distinctly off the pace performance in first qualifying, and managed just under four tenths faster than Davidson, 3:11.502. Felipe Massa lost out in the middle sector and was a similar gap down to go behind Barrichello, but over a second faster than teammate Villeneuve.
Michael Schumacher's Ferrari was right on Barrichello's pace until the last sector where he dropped a tenth and posted second, marginally ahead of Massa. Red Bull's David Coulthard took provisional pole by a comfortable 1.8 advantage over Barrichello, 3:09.700 -- who would have predicted the Ferraris would be behind a Red Bull?
Coulthard's teammate Christian Klien had barely a tenth over the Scot after first qualifying and matched him through the first two sectors. He picked up in the last to go ahead of Coulthard by a tenth, 3:09.589. Jenson Button lost out in the last sector and the BAR clocked third.
Nick Heidfeld was the first Williams out and was down on Button for fourth, although just over three tenths off pole. Juan Pablo Montoya and made a couple of small mistakes to end up fifth, which was a bit disappointing for McLaren. Mark Webber had a good lap in his Williams and took provisional pole by nearly seven tenths, 3:08.904.
After a strong performance by Toyota yesterday, Ralf Schumacher led out the last five and was a tenth down on Webber for second. Kimi Raikkonen was up on the lead Williams in sector one but lost out in the middle and crossed the line to take third for McLaren.
Fisichella, pole sitter in Melbourne, was easily up on Webber and took the top slot with a time of 3:08.448. Trulli was quicker in the early stages of his lap and kept it going to post a provisional pole of 3:07.925. A great lap by Trulli.
That left Alonso to defend his fastest time of yesterday. The Renault man kept it together and took pole position by two and a half tenths, 3:07.672. An excellent lap by the Spaniard, who claimed his maiden pole at this circuit in 2003.
So, the top three maintain their positions from Saturday. McLaren lost out, while the Red Bull drivers climbed a few places and Ralf and Button remained static in fifth and ninth respectively. Outside the top ten there was little change in the line up; Barrichello moved ahead of Massa and Michael but the rest held station from yesterday.
Renault is the team to beat later today, and Toyota is in a good position to do it. However, as usual it remains to be seen how fuel loads and strategy come into play. It looks set to be an interesting race. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Trulli, Fisichella, Webber, R. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Klien, Coulthard.