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David Coulthard column

Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella

Highlights - Fisichella claims shock pole

David Couthard
By David Coulthard
BBC Sport in Belgium

What more proof do you need that this Formula 1 season is completely unpredictable than qualifying for the Belgium Grand Prix?

In the second session at Spa-Francorchamps we lost world championship leader Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, who won just two races ago in Hungary, and Renault's two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

Giancarlo Fisichella
If the momentum stays behind Fisichella then he may have given himself the best ever chance to drive for the red cars

In front of them in 11th place on the grid is Adrian Sutil's Force India, while the German's team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella finished a further 10 places ahead on pole.

If that wasn't strange enough, you have Toyota saying they don't know why Jarno Trulli claimed second on the grid after three races out of the top 10.

BMW have accelerated backwards from the highs of last season but now the German team, who are quitting F1 at the end of the season, are back in the hunt with Nick Heidfeld third and Robert Kubica just behind in fifth.

Red Bull went into qualifying confident of ending up on the front row and yet they finished back in eighth and ninth.

I just don't know how to call this race!

Just six days ago at the European GP, there was nothing to suggest that Fisichella, who finished 12th in Valencia, would snatch pole at the head of such a mixed-up grid order.

It would be easy to say that Fisichella won't hold his position over 44 racing laps but the Force India cars have been genuinely quick this weekend.

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There is an element of knowledge when it comes to mastering Spa and the top three drivers in qualifying are some of the most experienced on the grid. Italians Fisichella and Trulli are veterans of more than 200 grands prix, while Heidfeld holds the record for consecutive finishes.

Qualifying also highlights how dependent an F1 car is upon a given set of circumstances; tyre temperature, tyre choice and aerodynamic configuration.

Set-up is so important at Spa for which cars use their lowest downforce settings this season, apart from the next race in Monza - and getting your car sorted and organised can pay dividends here.

How significant is the grid line-up for the championship being fought out between the Brawns and the Red Bulls? Well, I think it plays into the hands of Rubens Barrichello, who starts in fourth - 10 places ahead of Button.

Belgian GP news conference

Belgian GP qualifying news conference

The Brazilian is 18 points behind his Brawn GP team-mate and he has a real chance in Spa to claw that back with a great result. If Barrichello can close to within 10 points of Button, then the world championship leader could start to get fairly uncomfortable with just five races to go.

I haven't noticed any of the strain of leading the title race showing on Button's face this weekend but I know from experience that there is nothing worse than being repeatedly asked if you are beginning to feel the pressure.

He is not under pressure from any of his observers; the pressure only comes when he is on the track.

I don't think he is underperforming because of pressure, strain or title tension. He could be over-analysing the situation or realising what he has to lose and subconsciously tightening up, but I don't think he will publicly acknowledge anything even if he is.

Button starts down in 14th after his early exit in qualifying and it is going to be very difficult for him to score points from there.

He will have the McLaren pair with their push-to-pass Kers button hounding him and you have to presume the Red Bulls will move forward and pick up some sensible points.

Red Bull vs Brawn

Red Bull vs Brawn

Both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were disappointed by their position in Spa because they knew they could have eked out more performance from their Red Bulls.

Vettel and Webber made small errors on their flying laps and when you make a mistake around a 4.3-mile track you can easily drop two or three tenths and that is what happened in Spa.

Fisichella, on the other hand, has managed to squeeze something extra out on track in Spa and who knows what the repercussions may be?

I would be amazed if the Italian was trying harder just because it's contract time and therefore time to impress. But there have been rumours in the paddock that he could be parachuted in to replace Luca Badoer at Ferrari until the end of the season.

If the momentum stays behind Fisichella then he may just have given himself the best ever chance to drive for the red cars.

'Fisi' is famous for saying in his broken English 'I'm very happy" to everything - but you have to think he genuinely means it when he says it this weekend.


David Coulthard won 13 Grands Prix in a 15-year F1 career. He is a BBC Sport pundit and a consultant for Red Bull. He was talking to BBC Sport's Sarah Holt.



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see also
Fisichella on shock Belgium pole
29 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
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
David Coulthard column
22 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
F1 on the BBC
01 Dec 11 |  Formula 1


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