Alonso Fastest in Qualifying 1 - Bahrain

World Championship leader Fernando Alonso finished fastest in first qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, as temperatures at the desert track rose higher than any seen at a race weekend so far this year

Alonso Fastest in Qualifying 1 - Bahrain

Roasting air temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius pushed the track temperature to 54 degrees by the time the session came to a close, and Formula One looks set to have its hottest race of the year on Sunday.

But Alonso handled the heat to put himself in with the best chance of claiming pole position when Saturday's times are aggregated with those from Sunday morning, when he posted a lap time of 1:29.848.

He finished 0.145 seconds ahead of second-placed Toyota driver Jarno Trulli, with whom he has been battling in qualifying all season, and with World Champion Michael Schumacher having to settle for third.

Nick Heidfeld finished fourth with Williams teammate Mark Webber sixth fastest and Italian Giancarlo Fisichella just splitting the two drivers in the second Renault with the fifth fastest time.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen, in the lead McLaren, finished seventh fastest with Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa ninth, just behind the Red Bull Racing machine of Austrian Christian Klien and Felipe Massa completed the top ten for Sauber.

De la Rosa was first out and set a time of 1:30.725. The Spaniard, standing in for injured Juan Pablo Montoya, said he found the track conditions markedly changed from the morning's practice. "I found a very different track from late this morning; it was much more slippery," he said after completing his first one-lap qualifying session. "Not a bad lap but lack of grip, I was sliding everywhere. I was happy with my lap but I was just sliding around a lot."

De la Rosa was followed by Takuma Sato, who finished 0.388 off the early lead pace for BAR-Honda, then followed by Patrick Friesacher, who changed an engine in his Minardi before the start of the session and then set the slowest time.

Jenson Button was next out, and the Briton BAR-Honda driver remained underwhelmed by his machinary. "It is difficult to say," he responded when asked how he evaluates his qualifying result. "The lap wasn't great. In Turn 8 I had a bit of oversteer, but not enough to be quicker than de la Rosa. We are just finding trouble and really suffering with the lack of grip we have with the car."

Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve continued to struggle with the handling of his Sauber and finished more than one-and-a-half seconds slower than de la Rosa after running wide on the final corner of his lap.

Webber, who set the fastest ever lap at Sakhir in final practice, then went 0.133 seconds faster to move to the top of the times but Fisichella soon knocked him off the perch after a smooth lap.

The new Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello was out next and the Brazilian, who has been beset by problems and completed only five laps so far this weekend, suffered for his lack of track experience.

He locked his brakes going into the first corner and the costly mistake, despite a reasonable effort through the rest of the lap, ensured he was more than a second down on the leader by the end of his run.

Massa then piled more pressure on teammate Villeneuve when he put in a time good enough for fourth place behind Fisichella, Webber and de la Rosa and finished almost 1.4 seconds ahead of the Canadian.

Raikkonen then looked set to go fastest of the lot but lost time in the final sector of his lap and dropped into third spot, beating de la Rosa's time by just 0.280 seconds before Klien split the McLarens with his flying lap.

World Champion Schumacher, out next in his new Ferrari, finished his first sector one tenth ahead then extended it by a further tenth and maintained his advantage to finish 0.208 seconds ahead of Fisichella.

Coulthard failed to shine and set a time below the top ten runners then Ralf Schumacher struggled for grip and finished in the middle runners before Nick Heidfeld just missed out on the top spot in his Williams.

Trulli was just faster than Schumacher after his second sector and he pulled out a massive two tenths on the final part of the lap to overhaul the World Champion by 0.244 seconds with just Alonso left to go.

Pos Driver Team Time 1. (20) Alonso Renault (M) 1:29.848 2. (19) Trulli Toyota (M) 1:29.993 + 0.145 3. (15) M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:30.237 + 0.389 4. (18) Heidfeld Williams-BMW (M) 1:30.390 + 0.542 5. (7) Fisichella Renault (M) 1:30.445 + 0.597 6. (6) Webber Williams-BMW (M) 1:30.592 + 0.744 7. (13) Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:30.594 + 0.746 8. (14) Klien Red Bull-Cosworth (M) 1:30.646 + 0.798 9. (1) de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:30.725 + 0.877 10. (12) Massa Sauber-Petronas (M) 1:30.933 + 1.085 11. (17) R.Schumacher Toyota (M) 1:30.952 + 1.104 12. (4) Button BAR-Honda (M) 1:30.957 + 1.109 13. (2) Sato BAR-Honda (M) 1:31.113 + 1.265 14. (16) Coulthard Red Bull-Cosworth (M) 1:31.211 + 1.363 15. (8) Barrichello Ferrari (B) 1:31.826 + 1.978 16. (5) Villeneuve Sauber-Petronas (M) 1:32.318 + 2.470 17. (11) Karthikeyan Jordan-Toyota (B) 1:33.190 + 3.342 18. (10) Monteiro Jordan-Toyota (B) 1:33.424 + 3.576 19. (9) Albers Minardi-Cosworth (B) 1:34.005 + 4.157 20. (3) Freisacher Minardi-Cosworth (B) 1:34.848 + 5.000 All Timing Unofficial 
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Fernando Alonso
Author Will Gray
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