Fisichella grabs first pole for Force India

Giancarlo Fisichella has taken his first pole position for the Force India in a remarkable qualifying session at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. No one expected the poplar Italian to take the top spot in a car that often occupies the last row of the grid, so this result is a fantastic achievement for both the Italian and the Silverstone-based team.

Jarno Trulli continued Toyota’s impressive pace at Spa with second position, joining his fellow countryman on the front row. BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld is next up with the winner of last weekend’s European Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello in the Brawn.

Robert Kubica was fifth fastest in the other BMW, having briefly occupied a front row slot until the last minute shuffle in the Q3 session. The Polish driver will start just in front of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was sixth ahead of Timo Glock’s Toyota.

The Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will start in eighth and ninth position with Nico Rosberg produce another fine performance in the Williams with tenth.

As for championship leader Jenson Button, he will start in a disappointing P14 – his worst qualifying performance this season. He was simply struggling from a lack of grip on his soft-compound Bridgestones.

To witness all the traditional frontrunners struggling was quite surreal even though the one-hour qualifying session was running in fine and dry conditions. The differences between the soft and medium-compound tyres offered by Bridgestone might be the main cause of the problem.

In the case of Button, he wasn’t confident on the option tyres, which resulted in a low grid position. Jenson’s advantage over his championship rivals is slowly diminishing by every race and this latest setback is not doing any favours if he wants to win the title.

Even the McLarens have difficulty in qualifying with Lewis Hamilton down in P12 with team-mate Heikki Kovalainen a further three places behind. Both drivers complained about a lack of decent pace.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso was also out in Q2 and will start the race at Spa in between his old rival Hamilton and the championship leader Button with an unlucky P13.

As for the under-pressure Luca Badoer, who had a nightmare race at Valencia last weekend, the Ferrari driver failed to go through Q3 after crashing at Les Combes. The Italian will start his second race for Scuderia in last place.

Qualifying times from Spa-Francorchamps:

1.  Fisichella   Force India-Mercedes  1:46.308
2.  Trulli       Toyota                1:46.395
3.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber            1:46.500
4.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes        1:46.513
5.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber            1:46.586
6.  Raikkonen    Ferrari               1:46.633
7.  Glock        Toyota                1:46.677
8.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault      1:46.761
9.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault      1:46.788
10.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota       1:47.362
11.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes    1:45.119
12.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes        1:45.122
13.  Alonso       Renault               1:45.136
14.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes         1:45.251
15.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes      1:45.259
16.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:45.705
17.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:45.951
18.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota       1:46.032
19.  Grosjean     Renault                 1:46.307
20.  Badoer       Ferrari                 1:46.359

8 thoughts to “Fisichella grabs first pole for Force India”

  1. The top three drivers views on the qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps. Articles taken from

    Giancarlo Fisichella celebrated what he labelled as an “unbelievable” pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix, the Italian admitting he never expected such a result.

    In a surprising qualifying session, Fisichella gave his Force India team its maiden pole position in Formula 1.

    Ironically it was also the first time Fisichella had made it to Q3 with Force India.

    The pole position was the fourth of his career for the 36-year-old Italian and the first one since the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix.

    “It is unbelievable, I didn’t expect pole position, especially after yesterday,” said the Roman, who has been linked with a move to Ferrari to replace Luca Badoer at Monza.

    “I was quite surprised because there was a lot of understeer and the measures of downforce levels. We went through the problems this morning and the car was much better, an in qualifying it was much better than expected.

    “I was quickest in Q1, fourth in Q2, and then pole position. It is fantastic, I am so happy. I didn’t expect that result, so I am really happy and looking forward to tomorrow.”

    He added: “This is one of the my favourite circuits, I did well in the past and I was sure to be competitive this year but I didn’t expect to be on pole.

    “I am so happy for myself, for the team, my engineers, everybody. They did a fantastic job, and a fantastic step forward, especially from the last race. Considering our budget I didn’t expect that.

    “We were confident for sure to be top 15, and maybe top 10, but to be on pole position we didn’t expect that. In Q1 I was quick, in Q2 fourth quickest so we played to do pole and I am on pole.”

    Fisichella admitted his team had opted for an aggressive fuel strategy but, after setting the fourth fastest time in the second qualifying segment, the Italian is adamant his car still has strong race pace.

    “Actually I think we are a little bit aggressive,” he said. “We knew for the top three it was important to do that, but don’t forget I was fourth quickest in Q2. We are not so slow.”

    Jarno Trulli believes he has a strong chance to secure Toyota’s first victory in Formula 1, having qualified in what he reckons is a ‘competitive’ second on the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.

    Having set the fastest time in qualifying during Q2 – 1m44.503s – Trulli said that it was his consistent pace during high-fuel running throughout the weekend that has given him confidence ahead of the race.

    “I am very confident for tomorrow,” said Trulli, who starts alongside a potentially light-fuelled Giancarlo Fisichella, who is on pole.

    “I have been running most of the weekend on heavy fuel and being second on our fuel load will mean a good race tomorrow.

    “We came here and thought we would be strong, in Q2 we were top and in Q3 we looked good.

    “I have to thank team and I dedicate this to all my mechanics who are going through a difficult moment and sometimes it is hard to understand what is going on.”

    Toyota struggled throughout the European Grand Prix weekend, and Trulli admitted that he was a loss to explain the team’s upturn in form at Spa.

    “It is a mystery,” he said. “We haven’t done anything on car since the last race, yet we have been competitive all weekend.

    “It is great for the team, for the engineers, my mechanics. We don’t understand sometimes why we struggle so much or why we were so quick like today

    “We didn’t really get a special update here – just the normal downforce and wing level changes for this kind of circuit.

    “We spent most of the time basically balancing the car between the high-speed section and mid-speed section,” he added. “We made a change on the car set-up this morning so I had better engine and better traction.

    “But it is a good question, which none of us can answer, especially when things go wrong. When things go right we know we have a good car, we have had it since the beginning of the season. But we don’t know why sometimes we are very bad, sometimes it changes from session to session.”

    Nick Heidfeld believes his third place in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix is an important result that could help BMW secure the future of the team.

    The German car maker will quit Formula 1 at the end of the season and it is still looking for a buyer that will allow the team to race on.

    BMW was back on form at Spa for its strongest qualifying of the season, with Heidfeld third fastest and team-mate Robert Kubica in fifth.

    Heidfeld reckons the result is a boost for the team.

    “It is important to everyone in the team,” said Heidfeld. “It shows that BMW wants to leave on a high and it’s more important for the people in Hinwil.

    “We are working on saving the team. It’s difficult to say what will happen but it is important we have a good result.”

    Heidfeld admitted the team had not made any significant changes to its car for the Spa race, and he reckons the nature of the track is the main reason why BMW is suddenly so competitive.

    “We have a couple of small updates, but nothing major, we are waiting for Singapore,” he said. “One reason why it is so mixed here is it I a completely different track, it is a mid- downforce level. We usually stick on the car anything you find but not here.

    “We’ve made god progress overnight. This morning there were another couple of changes, it went pretty smooth. From time to time there is traffic. Q2 I wasn’t happy with set-up time, but I was convinced that Q3 could be possible.”

  2. Fernando Alonso says his Renault team was just not strong enough in qualifying at Spa, after failing to reach the top ten.

    The two-time world champion was amongst a group of famous name to miss the cut to go into Q3, the Spaniard having to settle for 13th position on the grid.

    Alonso admitted his car simply had no more pace in it.

    “Today we just weren’t competitive enough and we struggled in both Q1 and Q2 where I did my maximum but still missed out,” said Alonso.

    “However, it was an unusual session today as we had big competitors knocked out in Q2. Tomorrow this should make for an interesting race and then there is always the weather which may play a role.

    “So we will not give up and will do our best to fight back tomorrow.”

    Team-mate Romain Grosjean had an even more disappointing day, however, the Frenchman qualifying down in 19th position after being hit by traffic for most of Q1.

    “It was a difficult session today as there was a lot of traffic,” he said. “I was blocked on a couple of my quick laps by a Toro Rosso and then my last quick lap was ruined by the yellow flag.

    “However, the car has been good all weekend and I really love this circuit so I will give my maximum to move forward, finish the race and gain more experience.”


  3. Despite a low grid position, defending world champion Lewis Hamilton reckons he has the chance to score points in the race. Read on for his view as taken from

    Lewis Hamilton says he was not too disappointed with his result in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, and the Briton insists he is still aiming to score points on Sunday.

    Hamilton, who had won and finished second in the last two races, had to settle for 12th position on the grid as his car showed its deficits on high-speed corners.

    The McLaren driver said he extracted the maximum from his McLaren, and he is still eyeing a points finish tomorrow.

    “We did the best job we could today,” said Hamilton. “We’d always known the car would struggle in the mid-sector corners: being one second down in the mid-sector shows the true downforce level of our car.

    “We expected that we wouldn’t have as good an aero package as some of the others – we just didn’t know to what extent. I guess today we found out.

    “But I’m not too disappointed – this year has been a rollercoaster ride for everyone, but I’m enjoying it still and I love driving this track. My plan for tomorrow is a points finish.”

    Heikki Kovalainen, 15th toady, said his team was expecting a tough day, as it was the case.

    “This morning, we started to become a little surprised by the pace of some of the other cars,” he said. “We were struggling in the high-speed corners a little more than in either Hungary or Valencia, where the circuit configurations are slower.

    “We expected today to be tough and our results show we are still lacking in high-speed efficiency, downforce and straight-line speed.

    “Still, it was very close today; there was quite a bit of traffic in the session and, with just a couple more tenths, we could have made it into Q3. I’ll be racing hard tomorrow and I feel confident we can go forwards from here.

    “Nevertheless, we know where we are and we’re not down because of this. We’ve shown progress compared with Silverstone and we’ll keep pushing to improve on our issues.”

  4. A set of nice celebration photos on the Force India team:

    Some information on the team as taken from F1 Fanatic:

    It was the first pole position for the team in its current form. The Silverstone-based squad last had a car on pole at the Nürburgring in 1999 for the European Grand Prix.

    That was when the team was still Jordan. Since then it has gone through two other identities – MidlandF1 and Spyker – without setting a pole position.

    It remains to be seen how much fuel Fisichella has for tomorrow’s race. But he stands an excellent chance of scoring the team’s first point – something they’ve come close to doing in the past, but haven’t managed yet.

    For Fisichella it was his first pole position since the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang – which was also the occasion of his last F1 win.

  5. Jenson Button admitted that he was mystified by his inability to match Brawn team-mate and championship rival Rubens Barrichello in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.

    The points leader qualified a disappointing 14th, 10 places behind the European Grand Prix winner after being a shock knock-out in Q2.

    “I didn’t expect to qualify in 14th position today but we really struggled with grip levels, particularly on the softer tyre,” said Button. “The car hasn’t felt quite right all weekend and unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any more out of it today.

    “Rubens and I are usually very closely matched but he was quick on the option and I wasn’t, so we need to look into the reasons for that.

    “I just couldn’t find any grip on the softer rubber so the rear end felt unstable and I had no confidence under braking, particularly in the middle sector. It’s strange as our set-ups are different but not by much. It’s going to be very tough in the race from here but at least we have more time to choose our strategy.

    “We need to get it right and see if we can score some points tomorrow.”

    Barrichello was delighted by the result which gives him a great opportunity to reduce the 18-point deficit he has to Button at the top of the table.

    “I’m extremely happy with our qualifying performance today and the second row of the grid is a great starting position for the race,” he said. “I took the best out of my car today, particularly in Q2 which was one of my best laps around Spa, but that was only enough for sixth position in that session.

    “We’ve been quite aggressive on the strategy and the race is wide open tomorrow so I’ll push as much as I can and we can get a good result from here.”


  6. From the 2009 season, the FIA is making public the weights of the cars, with their fuel load included, following Saturday’s qualifying session.

    Below is the weight of each car following qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, sorted by qualifying position.

    Pos Driver Weight (kg)
    1. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 648.0
    2. Trulli Toyota 656.5
    3. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 655.0
    4. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 644.5
    5. Kubica BMW-Sauber 649.0
    6. Raikkonen Ferrari 655.0
    7. Glock Toyota 648.5
    8. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 662.5
    9. Webber Red Bull-Renault 658.0
    10. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 670.0
    11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 678.5*
    12. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 693.5*
    13. Alonso Renault 684.4*
    14. Button Brawn-Mercedes 694.2*
    15. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 697.0*
    16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 685.0*
    17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 704.5*
    18. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 706.1*
    19. Grosjean Renault 704.7*
    20. Badoer Ferrari 691.5*

    * declared weight

  7. Rubens Barrichello believes he has chosen the right strategy for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix, despite having the lightest car of the field.

    The Brawn driver qualified in fourth position, but the Brazilian is likely to be also the first man to make a pitstop tomorrow, as the post-qualifying car weights revealed he is carrying less fuel than all his rivals.

    Barrichello, however, believes he will benefit from the strategic decision, as he reckons his car would have struggled to be higher up the grid with more fuel on board.

    “I have to be very happy with that,” said Barrichello. “It was an extremely competitive qualifying altogether and I was very proud with what I achieved in Q2, which was the most competitive one of the season in a way.

    “I put in a good lap that put me through. “I put in a good lap that put me through. I am into an aggressive strategy for Q3, but it is for the better – because overall out of the cars who were first lap contenders I don’t think our car was up to the speed.

    “Fourth on the grid is a plus. I think the car is quite good on the long runs, so I am looking forward to that.”

    Barrichello, whose team-mate Jenson Button qualified down in 14th position, believes his championship challenge is coming back to life after scoring his first win of the season in Valencia last weekend.

    “Yes. Since before Valencia I have said the best I can do is to get points out of Jenson, and although it is very wide open for tomorrow I think it is my best chance so far to get points out of him,” he said.

    While Barrichello keeps his momentum going, Button has struggled to shine in the last couple of races and has not finished on the podium since the Turkish Grand Prix.

    The Brazilian is 18 points behind with six races left.

    “You live with the problems,” Barrichello added. “We still lock rears in a way, but from track to track the work done on Friday was quite good, and you keep on doing it.

    “I am very confident with the car. There is a good momentum and you keep on rolling. Since Silverstone it was a good turnaround but of course I had problems in Germany, I had problems in Hungary which did not look like I was on top.

    “But even on that races I was doing well. I am extremely happy but with my feet on the ground as there is lots to be gained tomorrow, but also it is going to be a different race. I don’t know what to expect from the guys in front.”

    Jenson Button has expressed his frustration at the situation he has found himself in – amid fears that he is going to see his world championship lead wiped out in the next few races unless he can turn things around.

    The Brawn GP driver had a disastrous qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, managing no better than 14th on the grid, and he is worried that team-mate Rubens Barrichello and rivals Red Bull Racing will take more points off him in the race.

    Although Button has an 18-point margin over his team-mate, he thinks it is not a comfortable enough lead for the way his form has trailed off in recent races.

    “It is not a huge advantage,” said Button in Spa. “I lost eight points to Rubens at the last race, which was frustrating even though it wasn’t down to the pace. Here I don’t have the pace, and he is starting fourth and I am starting outside the top ten.

    “Even if the positions stay as they are, he is going to gain a lot of points for me this race. It is a lead that is going to disappear very quickly if we start having bad weekends, but at the moment I cannot do anything about it.”

    He added: “At the moment, I cannot get the pace out of the car. It is something we need to look at.

    “We have a couple of weeks before Monza and hopefully we can find out the reasons. The car doesn’t feel to me like it did earlier in the season. We had a couple of cold races but since it has been warmer, I still can’t find a good balance.”

    Button has struggled to find a good set-up on his car over the Spa weekend, and matters were not helped by a small error he made in qualifying when he ran wide at the quick left hander before Pouhon.

    When asked how much his frustration was growing by what is happening, Button said: “Well, it is obviously not a good position to be in. I am leading by quite a bit but with a couple of bad races that will be it. So, it is frustrating but there is also no use in thinking about it too much.

    “You have to concentrate on trying to improve the situation, and that is exactly what I am going to be trying to do.”


  8. Giancarlo Fisichella has described taking pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix as one of the ‘best moments’ of his life.

    The 36-year-old veteran will start his 224th grand prix from the front of the grid at Spa on Sunday, having given Force India an historic result that was as much a surprise for him as for onlookers.

    And the three-time grand prix winner admitted to AUTOSPORT that the experience had reinvigorated him as he considers his future in the sport beyond the end of 2009.

    “It’s a big motivation for me, to go ahead, and to think positively in Formula 1,” he said, in an exclusive interview (link below).

    “For me last year and the first part of this season were very frustrating. Fighting for the last positions was frustrating.

    “Now I want to continue. When I can fight for the top ten and to score points, then there’s the motivation to go ahead.”

    Fisichella added that he had enjoyed the ‘perfect’ qualifying session and that his pole had meant more to him than the three he achieved with Benetton and Renault.

    “Honestly I think it’s the best one,” he said. “The first time was a long time ago. But this one is different.

    “When I was at Renault I knew the car was good enough to do a pole, but today nobody expected us to be on pole. Maybe in the top ten. So doing that is something amazing, out of the norm. I’m still dreaming, because it’s incredible.

    “Today I had the best qualifying of my life,” he added. “Everything was going perfect. All the laps without any trouble, without any traffic, every lap was clean. This year it had never happened. There was also some problem with the tyres or the traffic, so today was my day for sure.”

    The Italian paid tribute to Force India and the huge step forward the team has made since introducing a massive technical upgrade for last weekend’s race in Valencia.

    “They did a fantastic job in the wind tunnel considering our limited budget. I think we have done the best job in all the paddock, better than Ferrari, than McLaren, for sure.

    “At the beginning of the season maybe we were nearly two seconds slower than the leaders and now we are a few tenths,” he added. “So it’s amazing. Already yesterday I saw a good possibility to do well, because I was sixth, but the car was not balanced well.

    “There was some problem with the front wing adjustment and the figure with the data in the wind tunnel. We went through the problem during the night and this morning we put the car on the ground and straight away I felt the potential.

    “So we were confident of being in the top 15, difficult to be in the top 10, and now we are on pole.”

    Fisichella said his target for the race would be to finish in the points, but he hasn’t ruled out a shock podium finish given Force India’s performance so far this weekend.

    “Winning is a big word, but we have a good opportunity to do well,” he said. “Our main target is to score a point, which is like winning a race, but considering where we are I think I can score quite a lot of points.

    “The target from where we are I think it could be top six, but starting on pole the hope is to get on the podium.”

    Autosport interview:

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