Fisichella takes Malaysia pole

18/03/2006
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's qualifying session, the big news is that both Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello will require engine changes, which means that both Ferraris will forfeit ten grid spots.

Both Ferrari and Honda made their respective decisions following this morning's free practice session, in which, funnily enough, Michael was quickest.

Ahead of today's first knock-out session, the air temperature is 37 degrees C, while the track temperature is 48 degrees.

The lights go green, and first out is Monteiro, followed by Albers, Sato and Ide.

Of the 'big guns', Giancarlo Fisichella is one of the first to go out.

Albers posts the first time of the session, the Dutch driver crossing the line at 1:38.357, however, this is soon topped by Coulthard, who posts 1:36.507.

Alonso is on track, as is Ralf Schumacher, as Fisichella goes quickest with a 1:35.488.

Ralf goes quickest, as Alonso goes third, ahead of Speed.

Rubens Barrichello posts 35.902 to go fourth, as Raikkonen goes quickest in the first two sectors. The Finn crosses the line at 1:34.667, but Michael Schumacher is already on a good lap.

As Button goes second (35.023), as Michael takes seventh place with a 1:36.076. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Massa, who has had another engine change, will not go for a serious time and will settle for last place on the grid.

Montoya is on a very, very fast lap, as Rosberg takes sixth (35.577). The Colombian crosses the line at 1:34.536 to go quickest, as Webber takes fourth with a 1:35.252.

With just over two minutes remaining, both Red Bulls are in the 'danger zone', with Klien in the bottom six and Coulthard just above him.

Despite not going for a time, Massa goes fourth, posting 1:35.091.

Klien goes sixth, but is soon demoted by Coulthard who takes third, which drops Michael Schumacher to sixteenth, just above the 'drop zone'.

At the end of the first knock-out 'heat, Montoya is quickest, ahead of Raikkonen, Coulthard, Button, Massa, Rosberg, Klien, Ralf, Webber and Villeneuve.

Eliminated at the first hurdle however, are: Ide, Sato, Monteiro, Albers, Liuzzi and Speed.

The lights go green for round two, and this time nobody is in that much of a hurry to go out.

After a couple of minutes, Jacques Villeneuve is first to go out.

Despite his apparent problems, Michael Schumacher looks remarkable relaxed, and even waves to the TV cameras. Is Ferrari taking full advantage of the new format and the engine rules?

Villeneuve posts the first time, the BMW driver crossing the line at 1:36.669, having lost a lot of time in the final sector.

Klien takes the top spot with a 1:34.842, but this almost immediately beaten by his teammate, David Coulthard, who posts 1:34.614.

Having posted best time of the session, Ralf Schumacher pulls to the side of the track as his engine detonates, big time. Meanwhile, Montoya goes quickest, with Heidfeld fourth ahead of Fisichella and Trulli.

Kimi Raikkonen goes quickest with a 1:34.351, as Michael Schumacher goes out. The German goes third with a 1:34.574.

Rosberg goes second (34.563), but is quickly dropped to third by his WilliamsF1 teammate, who posts 1:34.279. However, moments later it is Button who goes quickest, the Englishman posting 1:33.527.

Massa is sitting on the pit wall, having clearly opted not to go out.

A poor final sector means that Heidfeld fails to improve, therefore both BMWs are in the 'drop zone', as are the Renaults!

That said, Fisichella goes quickest in the first sector, as Klien goes fourth. Fisichella takes second and his teammate third, as Heidfeld fails to improve.

The drivers that fails to make the cut are; Massa, Heidfeld, Villeneuve, Trulli, Barrichello and Coulthard. Ralf Schumacher has made the cut even though he doesn't have a car, or rather, an engine.

We now head into the final shoot out, which, as in Bahrain, will feature several laps of fuel burn off.

Having left it until the closing moments in the previous sessions, Giancarlo Fisichella is first out this time. He is followed by the McLarens, Ferrari and WilliamsF1s. Everyone is on track, except for Ralf, who will play no further part in today's activities.

As the filed cruises around the Malaysian countryside, Michael goes quickest, but his time is soon beaten by Mark Webber. Then again, this is only play about, the real times will come later.

As they continue to cruise, Webber has a momentary lapse, the Australian going wide.

Klien is the first to pit, followed by Button and Rosberg. With nine minutes remaining it's unlikely that we're going to see any really hot laps just yet. That said both Rosberg and Button have new 'boots' on.

As Michael pits, Rosberg goes quickest in the final sector.

Button goes quickest in the first sector, and again in the second. The Englishman crosses the line at 1:34.504, which is the cue for his rivals to turn up the heat.

Rosberg goes second with a 1:34.626, and Fisichella third, but Michael Schumacher is already on a good lap. The German takes third with a 1:35.164.

Four minutes remaining, and both McLarens stop for fresh rubber. The race is on!

Another set of new tyres for Button, as Montoya goes quickest in the first sector. Montoya maintains the pace, but Webber is also on a hot lap, as is Rosberg.

Montoya goes fourth, as Rosberg goes quickest in the middle sector, though Fisichella is also on a hot lap. The Italian is quickest in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 1:33.840 to take provisional pole.

Michael is still on track, as is Button, both are on strong laps. The German can only manage fourth, while Button remains second, despite a brave last minute burst.

Therefore, Fisichella will start from pole, ahead of Button, Rosberg, Michael, Webber, Montoya, Raikkonen, Alonso and Klien.

The third part of this new format definitely needs a tweak, as the fuel burning period lasts far too long and really isn't a good advert for the sport. However, the final burst of activity, when the times are forever changing - as is the top spot - is vaguely reminiscent of the good old days, before they started meddling.

Congratulations to Giancarlo for his third (F1) career pole, and also to Nico Rosberg and indeed WilliamsF1, which is really causing many F1 followers to face up to the prospect of having to eat large portions of 'humble pie' before the year is out. A few months ago, message boards and forums were filled with people predicting the end of the English team, now we're looking at a team that can seriously talk about pole positions, points, podiums and wins.

McLaren will be relatively disappointed to have its drivers on the third and fourth rows, while Renault, despite pole position, will be unhappy to have Fernando Alonso starting eighth.

However, as we saw with Kimi Raikkonen's performance last week, nothing is impossible, while fuel strategy and tactics mean that we shouldn't place too much emphasis on the starting order.

That said, with so many engine changes, some leading to grid demotions and others not, there is some confusion as to who actually starts where.

So here goes: Fisichella will start from pole ahead of Button, Rosberg, Webber, Montoya, Raikkonen, Alonso, Klien, Trulli, Villeneuve, Heidfeld, Speed, Liuzzi, Michael Schumacher, Albers, Monteiro, Sato, Ide, Coulthard, Barrichello, Massa and Ralf.

To check out our Sepang Qualifying gallery, click here

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Published: 18/03/2006
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