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Raikkonen steals pole from resurgent Alonso 26 Apr 2008

Qualifying parc ferme (L to R): Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, second; Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari, pole position; Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari, third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 26 April 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault celebrates his second position in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 26 April 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 26 April 2008 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda RA108.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 26 April 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 26 April 2008

Renault’s Fernando Alonso nearly pulled off a miracle for his fellow countrymen in Barcelona on Saturday afternoon, but it was Kimi Raikkonen who pipped him for pole position for Ferrari right at the end of a dramatic qualifying session for the Spanish Grand Prix.

After all the different set-ups used in practice it was a relief to see everyone going for it when qualifying got underway. Q1 was relatively uneventful to begin with but turned into a real gripper, with a flurry of quick times rearranging the order in the dying moments and a second covering everyone from second-placed Jarno Trulli’s Toyota (1m 21.158s to Raikkonen’s pacesetting 1m 20.701s), down to Sebastian Vettel’s Toro Rosso in 18th on 1m 22.108s.

When the dust had settled, David Coulthard on 1m 21.810s for Red Bull found himself the first man without a seat for Q2, in 17th overall. Then came Vettel, the Force Indias of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil on 1m 22.516s and 1m 23.224s respectively, and the Super Aguris of Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato, likewise on 1m 23.318s and 1m 23.496s.

Nobody ran for the first five minutes of Q2, but then out they all started to come, each driver and his team anxious, but not necessarily successful in their quest, to avoid traffic. Again, the times were incredibly close.

This time Felipe Massa set the pace with 1m 20.584s ahead of Robert Kubica (1m 20.597s), Kimi Raikkonen (1m 20.784s), Fernando Alonso (1m 20.804s), Nick Heidfeld (1m 20.815s), Heikki Kovalainen (1m 20.817s), Lewis Hamilton (1m 20.825s), Nelson Piquet (1m 20.894s), Jarno Trulli (1m 20.907s) and Mark Webber (1m 20.984s). Just four-tenths between first and 10th!

Out were Rubens Barrichello (1m 21.049s), Kazuki Nakajima (1m 21.117s), Jenson Button (1m 21.211s), Timo Glock (1m 21.230s), Nico Rosberg (1m 21.349s) and Sebastien Bourdais (1m 21.724s).

You could cut the tension with a knife as the top 10 came out for Q3 and the final shoot-out.

The Spanish crowd went mad when Alonso planted his Renault on pole with 1m 21.904s, but then Raikkonen rained on their parade with 1m 21.813s. That left hitherto fastest man Felipe Massa third on 1m 22.058s, from Kubica (1m 22.065s) and Hamilton (1m 22.096s), with Kovalainen joining his McLaren team mate on the third row with 1m 22.231s.

Webber was seventh on 1m 22.429s for Red Bull, ahead of Trulli for Toyota on 1m 22.529s. Heidfeld was ninth for BMW Sauber on 1m 22.542s and Piquet 10th in the second Renault on 1m 22.699s.

Now we have to wait and see on Sunday who was running less fuel, but the indications are pretty clear… Just so you know, the last seven pole sitters have gone on to win the Spanish Grand Prix. Could Alonso provide the exception to the rule?