Alonso Fastest in Qualifying 1 - Malaysia

Fernando Alonso continued Renault's assault on the front of Formula One at Sepang on Saturday when he set the fastest time in first qualifying for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

As World Champions Ferrari struggled in the sizzling heat Alonso gave himself the chance of securing a fourth career pole on Sunday morning with an impressive time of 1:32.582.

The lap was significantly faster than last year's pole position time set by Schumacher and put Alonso 0.090 seconds clear of second-placed Jarno Trulli's impressively fast Toyota.

Alonso set his time late in the session to push himself ahead of Italian Jarno Trulli, who has set a blistering pace all weekend in the intense heat at the Sepang circuit but just failed to hold onto the top spot.

Australian Grand Prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella slotted into third, Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth for McLaren with German Ralf Schumacher, in the second Toyota, fifth fastest and Australian Mark Webber sixth for Williams.

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya failed to match his McLaren teammate's pace and finished seventh after a ragged lap and German Nick Heidfeld similarly struggled to match teammate Webber and had to settle for eighth.

Briton Jenson Button, who suffered engine concerns in the final practice session and failed to set a time, overcame his problems to finish ninth while Austrian Christian Klien completed the top ten for Red Bull Racing.

Anthony Davidson was first out for BAR-Honda, having replaced ill Japanese driver Takuma Sato for the rest of the weekend, and he set a cautious time of 1:34.866 in temperatures of 37 degrees.

Schumacher, who crashed out of the season-opening race in Australia, was out soon after and he managed a time almost 1.5 seconds faster but was still beaten by Williams driver Nick Heidfeld, who he collided with in the preceding race.

The next group of cars, including the Sauber of struggling Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, failed to match the pace of the front-runners and the leading order remained the same as the session headed towards its halfway point.

Briton Jenson Button, who missed the final practice session with an oil problem, then set a time more than 1.2 seconds faster than Davidson to slot in behind Heidfeld in second before Ralf Schumacher moved into the top spot.

Felipe Massa then set a time 0.7 seconds faster than Villeneuve to pour more pressure on the former World Champion before Trulli, the pacesetter for much of the weekend, moved to the top of the times ahead of teammate Schumacher.

Raikkonen slotted into second, just 0.l67 seconds behind Trulli, and Christian Klien was unable to match the lead pace as he finished more than a second down in his Red Bull Racing machine.

Montoya could only finish half a second slower than teammate Raikkonen after running over the kerbs during his flying lap and both Webber and Coulthard failed to shine on their efforts late in the session.

Pos       Driver        Team                   Time
 1.  (18) Alonso        Renault           (M)  1:32.582  
 2.  (12) Trulli        Toyota            (M)  1:32.672  + 0.090
 3.  (20) Fisichella    Renault           (M)  1:32.765  + 0.183
 4.  (13) Raikkonen     McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  1:32.839  + 0.257
 5.   (9) R.Schumacher  Toyota            (M)  1:33.106  + 0.524
 6.  (16) Webber        Williams-BMW      (M)  1:33.204  + 0.622
 7.  (15) Montoya       McLaren-Mercedes  (M)  1:33.333  + 0.751
 8.   (3) Heidfeld      Williams-BMW      (M)  1:33.464  + 0.882
 9.  (10) Button        BAR-Honda         (M)  1:33.616  + 1.034
10.  (14) Klien         Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  1:33.724  + 1.142
11.  (17) Coulthard     Red Bull-Cosworth (M)  1:33.809  + 1.227
12.   (4) M.Schumacher  Ferrari           (B)  1:34.072  + 1.490
13.  (11) Massa         Sauber-Petronas   (M)  1:34.151  + 1.569
14.  (19) Barrichello   Ferrari           (B)  1:34.162  + 1.580
15.   (1) Davidson      BAR-Honda         (M)  1:34.866  + 2.284
16.   (8) Villeneuve    Sauber-Petronas   (M)  1:34.887  + 2.305
17.   (7) Karthikeyan   Jordan-Toyota     (B)  1:37.806  + 5.224
18.   (6) Monteiro      Jordan-Toyota     (B)  1:37.856  + 5.274
19.   (5) Freisacher    Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  1:39.268  + 6.686
20.   (2) Albers        Minardi-Cosworth  (B)  1:40.432  + 7.850

All Timing Unofficial

Previous article Sato Suffers from Viral Infection
Next article Sauber: We Expected More