Sun, Oct 01, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Spain's Alonso bags pole position for Chinese Grand Prix

AP , SHANGHAI

Spanish driver Fernando Alonso drives his Renault during qualifying for today's Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit in Shanghai, China, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Season leader and defending champion Fernando Alonso took pole position yesterday for the Chinese Grand Prix in wet conditions, while arch rival Michael Schumacher qualified in sixth position.

Alonso led qualifying with a time of 1 minute, 44.360 seconds at the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit, almost 10 seconds slower than Friday's time in dry conditions.

Alonso's Renault teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was second with 1:44.992.

The varying conditions didn't bother Alonso or Fisichella as the Renaults dominated qualifying, finishing 1-2 in all three sections.

"We are very optimisitic, We are very confident we are quick in the dry and the wet," Alonso said.

It was the sixth pole for Alonso this season, but his first since June when he won his last race at the Canadian Grand Prix. He has 15 career poles.

"It was OK from the beginning. First in Q-1, Q-2, Q-3. There is nothing to say about the car. The performance of the team has been fantastic today," said Alonso, who won here last year from pole position.

"In these weather conditions we were really, really comfortable this time, so we took advantage," he said. "Of course we have to finish the job tomorrow."

Honda's Rubens Barrichello, who won the inaugural Chinese GP in 2004, was third with 1:45.503. Ferrari's Schumacher was sixth in 1:45.775, just behind McLaren driver Kimmi Raikkonen at 1:45.754.

Rain threatened throughout the morning, then fell harder just as qualifying began. More rain is forecast for today's 56-lap race.

Schumacher had his troubles in the first two sessions, coming in 13th and ninth while Alonso led both.

Felipe Massa, Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, was just 14th and will start at the back of the grid today because of a 10-place penalty due to an engine change on Friday.

Alonso holds a 108-106 point lead over seven-time champion Schumacher, and is looking to halt any further erosion of his lead entering the last three races.

"We know it is tight and it would be difficult to decide until the last race," Alonso said. "We are looking forward to a good race, not only here but also in Japan and Brazil. The object is to finish ahead of Ferrari in all three races."

Six races ago, Alonso led by 25 points after winning six of the first nine races of the season. Since then, he hasn't won a race while Schumacher has won four.

Schumacher then announced his retirement following his victory at the Italian GP earlier this month.

Still, the German has repeatedly met with trouble at the state-of-the-art Shanghai track. He came in 12th in 2004 and finished dead last last year amid spins, freak crashes and tire blowouts.

Alonso won here last year to clinch the constructor's crown for Renault. The Spaniard, the then aged 24, last year became the youngest racer to win the season driver's title.

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