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Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Saturday, 29 August 2009 14:22 UK

Fisichella on shock Belgium pole

BELGIAN GRAND PRIX
Venue: Spa-Francorchamps Dates: 28-30 August 2009 Coverage: Live coverage of Friday practice, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race - which starts at 1300 BST - across BBC TV, radio and online platforms. Find full listings here

Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella

Highlights - Fisichella claims shock pole

By Chris Whyatt

Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella took pole for the Belgian Grand Prix in an extraordinary qualifying session as Jenson Button managed only 14th.

The stuttering points leader failed to get past the second knock-out session, when he was 0.4 seconds slower than team-mate Rubens Barrichello.

Fisichella's extraordinary achievement marks his team's first Formula 1 pole.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli will start second for Sunday's race ahead of BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and Barrichello's Brawn.

A high-profile cast of casualties joined Button in failing to get into the final top-10 shoot-out as McLaren's world champion Lewis Hamilton, who came first and second in the last two grands prix, qualfiied 12th ahead of Renault's two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Button.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber - the two drivers hotly tipped to win at Spa in their Red Bull cars which many observers believed best suited the high-speed corners of the undulating circuit - qualified in eight and ninth respectively, much to their bafflement.

BBC SPORT'S FUEL-ADJUSTED GRID (with projected race first pit stops*)
1 Trulli (lap 12)
2 Vettel +0.156 (lap 15)
3 Heidfeld +0.157 (lap 12)
4 Fisichella +0.211 (lap 10)
5 Raikkonen +0.290 (lap 12)
6 Webber +0.341 (lap 13)
7 Kubica +0.454 (lap 10)
8 Rosberg +0.495 (lap 16)
9 Barrichello+0.538 (lap 9)
10 Glock +0.562 (lap 10)
* Calculated on the weight of fuel left in cars after qualifying had finished

"That was a strange session - we expected to be more competitive than that," said Webber, third in the drivers' championship.

"A lot of the guys were too quick for us - it shows you never know in this game."

Button, who won six of the first seven races of this season but has not been on the podium in the last four, said: "I'm a little bit worried because something is seriously not right.

"It's strange to be four or five tenths off Rubens - our cars are different but not that different."

Even more remarkable than those relative failures is underdogs Force India leapfrogging a host of teams who would not usually consider them rivals, but may now have to revise that opinion at Spa.

Into their second season, the team - who have effectively changed ownership four times since 2005 when they were sold by Eddie Jordan to the Midland Group - have yet to win an F1 point.

Now backed by billionaire Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, they have steadily introduced a series of updates to Fisichella and Adrian Sutil's cars in recent races and showed real signs of improvement at the European Grand Prix last weekend, where both drivers ran well.

They added new front and rear wings in Belgium to the new diffuser and barge boards that were introduced at Valencia.

Yet - as well as providing a relative boost for Red Bull - fuel loads published after the race reveal that Fisichella is fuelled lighter than Trulli, Vettel and Heidfeld, essentially making him only the fourth-fastest man in the final part of qualifying.

His light load also means he will have to pit stop earlier than them for more fuel, with calculations indicating that should happen on lap 12 of the 4.3-mile track.

F1 MOLE EXPLAINS FUEL WEIGHTS

"I don't know [how it's happened]," said 36-year-old Fisichella. "It's unbelievable - I didn't expect to be on pole position, especially after yesterday. I was sixth and was quite surprised.

"There was a lot of understeering. The measurement on the downforce was not good. This morning it was much better straightaway, and it was even better in qualifying than I expected.

"It's amazing. I'm so happy about that. I need to thank the team. They did a fantastic job."

With Heidfeld third and team-mate Robert Kubica fifth, BMW Sauber appeared to reap the benefits of a new diffuser and a lighter chassis, which they first used at the European GP last weekend.

"We did our homework in practice, made several changes and I'm quite happy with the balance of the car," said Heidfeld.

Barrichello won his first race of the season in Valencia to move to within 18 points of Button in the drivers' championship with six races remaining, and professed himself happy with fourth on the grid as he seeks to eat further into that lead.

"The second row of the grid is a great starting position for the race," said the second-oldest man on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton
World champion Hamilton will start 12th on the Belgian Grand Prix grid

"The results today have to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. I took the best out of my car today, particularly in Q2 which was one of my best laps around Spa. We've been quite aggressive on the strategy and the race is wide open tomorrow."

Hamilton, 24, said his McLaren car did not respond especially respond well to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, where he particularly struggled through the middle sector.

"I went into qualifying nervous as hell," he said.

"I didn't know where we were going to be. We knew we didn't have the downforce of the others. Now we have gone down to a much lower downforce level it is starting to magnify our aero problems.

"There was nothing I can do. I was on the ragged edge."

The fraught qualifying session was perhaps indicative of a season which is becoming increasingly open - eight different drivers have set the fastest lap in each of the last eight races and, more tellingly, the past five races have been won by five different drivers.



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see also
Button shrugs off Spa title blow
31 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix qualifying
27 Aug 09 |  Results
Belgian GP qualifying as it happened
29 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix photos
29 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso targets high grid position
28 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Trulli keeping his options open for 2010
28 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton on top as Button toils
28 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Belgian Grand Prix photos
28 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Iím not feeling pressure - Button
27 Aug 09 |  Formula 1


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