Alonso takes pole position in tough session

Defending world drivers’ champion Fernando Alonso stormed to pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on Saturday.

Spaniard Alonso (24) fended off a later surge from his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella to take the top spot in one minute and 14,972 seconds — more than two-10ths of a second ahead of the Italian.

Alonso said: ”It was a tough session because there were three of us pretty close, but pole position, great. It’s very good for us, but honestly it is feeling pretty normal at the moment.”

And Fisichella added: ”I am happy with the second position. It was very hot and that worked for our car, but we did okay. I think we do have now a good position to try to win this race tomorrow [Sunday] now. That is the aim.”

Behind the all-conquering Renaults, Finn Kimi Raikkonen was third for McLaren with Italian Jarno Trulli an impressive fourth for Toyota.

Alonso’s nearest championship rival, German Michael Schumacher, could only manage fifth for Ferrari — a second off the pace.

Schumacher said: ”This could be down to the tyres, the car, the set-up, whatever.”

And Schumacher, who was optimistic of a record eighth win at the circuit named after Ferrari legend Gilles Villeneuve, has now changed his opinion completely.

He is predicting a difficult race and knows he will unlikely receive any help from his Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa, who starts an equally disappointing 10th.

Schumacher added: ”We can expect a really tough race — it will be very long too at 70 laps. Having said that though, anything can happen so we have to give it our best shot.”

The remainder of the top 10 was completed by German Nico Rosberg in a Williams, Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya in a McLaren, the Hondas of Briton Jenson Button and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, and Ferrari’s Massa.

The second part of qualifying saw Alonso set the fastest time of the weekend so far with a lap below the one-minute, 15-second barrier.

That was as exiting as it got though, with no surprise names missing the cut for the top-10 shoot-out, although the massed crowd went distinctly quieter when local hero Jacques Villeneuve missed the cut by just one place.

Also put out were Austrian Christian Klien in a Red Bull, Villeneuve’s German teammate Nick Heidfeld, another German, Ralf Schumacher, in a Toyota, and Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi, who qualified his Toro Rosso ahead of Briton David Coulthard’s Red Bull.

There was high drama for the Williams garage during the opening session, though, as German Nico Rosberg put in a last-gasp lap to get through. But that dropped his Australian teammate Mark Webber out of the safety zone and ensured that he would miss the top-16 cut for the second race in a row.

Eliminated behind Webber were American Scott Speed in a Toro Rosso, the Midland teammates Tiago Monteiro of Portugal and Christijan Albers from The Netherlands, and the Super Aguri pair of Japanese Takuma Sato and Frenchman Franck Montagny. — Sapa-AFP

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