Giancarlo Fisichella earned Force India’s first pole position in Formula One on Saturday as series leader Jenson Button and world champion Lewis Hamilton failed to make final qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Fisichella clocked 1 minute 46.308 seconds on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit to head an unlikely top three from Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1:46.395) and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld (1:46.500) for Sunday’s race. It was the veteran Italian driver’s first pole position since Malaysia in 2006 when he was at Renault, and the fourth of his career. Although a three-time race winner since his debut with Minardi in 1996, the 36-year-old has failed to win a point this season, as has teammate Adrian Sutil — who did not make the final session as he qualified 11th. Rubens Barrichello, seeking to further cut Brawn teammate Button’s 18-point championship lead following his victory in Valencia last weekend, was fourth in 1:46.513 ahead of Robert Kubica in the second Sauber and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Timo Glock was seventh in the other Toyota while Sebastian Vettel was eighth as Red Bull’s expected return to form failed to materialize. Vettel, who trails Button by 25 points with six races to go, finished one place ahead of teammate Mark Webber, who is third in the overall standings behind Barrichello.
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Button’s miserable run in qualifying continued as he finished 14th, just behind Renault’s two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, while Hamilton was 12th in his McLaren after having set the fastest time in Friday’s practice sessions. Heikki Kovalainen was 15th in the other McLaren, while Luca Badoer again struggled as the replacement for Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari as he finished last of the 20 drivers. Fisichella has been linked with a move to Ferrari as a stop-gap until Massa has recovered from his head injuries, and his future at Force India is uncertain, but insisted that he was just focusing on Sunday’s race. “As for my future, it’s too early to say. I’ve not had any contact with any other team, and I’ve had no talks with Force India about next year,” he told reporters. “But I’m just concentrating on my season with Force India and the race. I don’t want to think about the next race and whether I am there (at Ferrari) or with Force India. I’ve a contract with Force India. I don’t have a contract with Ferrari.” Hamilton, who finished second behind Barrichello at the European Grand Prix, was not too despondent after his recent encouraging run came to an end. “We did the best job we could today. 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,” the British driver, who finished first at Spa last year before being demoted to third for an illegal move, told F1’s official Web site. “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.”