Fisichella fastest in first qualifying
Giancarlo Fisichella set the fastest time in opening qualifying for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix as a mid-session rainstorm helped shuffle the pack and set up the chance of a mixed grid for the season-opening event.

Fisichella set a time of 1:33.171 just seconds before a rainstorm ruined the chances of his rival front-runners and virtually assured him of starting Sunday's race from pole position.

New qualifying rules will see the opening session, which was run in the finishing order from last year's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix, aggregated with Sunday morning's qualifying laps to decide the grid.

And with second-placed Jarno Trulli 2.099 seconds back in the lead Toyota and Fisichella's main rivals from McLaren and Ferrari much further behind, the new rules look to have thrown things up in the air from the very start.

World champion Michael Schumacher set his lap time in the worst conditions and finished 24.760 seconds off the pace leaving him with little chance of starting and further up than the second last row of the grid.

Australian Mark Webber, who was the sixth driver out in the session, finished third fastest in his Williams but was 3.546 seconds slower than Fisichella as his team-mate Nick Heidfeld finished down in seventh.

Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve finished fourth fastest, 3.813 seconds off the lead pace in his Sauber but his team-mate Felipe Massa was the unlucky driver who hit the downpour just after Fisichella's lap.

Red Bull Racing driver Christian Klien finished fifth fastest, just ahead of his more experienced team-mate David Coulthard after setting their times on a drying track earlier in the session.

Briton Jenson Button finished eighth fastest but was 8.341 seconds behind Fiscihella while Jordan Narain Karthikeyan finished ninth and McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen finished off the top ten.

Dutchman Christijan Albers was the first man out on a damp track in temperatures of 16 degrees Celsius and he set a time of 1:49.230 in his 2005-spec Minardi, which had to be worked on overnight to meet the regulations.

His Austrian team-mate Patrick Friesacher followed but could not better him and it soon became clear that the two Minardi drivers were suffering from a severe lack of testing on their newly modified car.

Indian Karthikeyan, who crashed his Jordan at the end of morning practice and will be awarded a 10-spot grid penalty after changing his engine, was next out and moved five seconds ahead.

Button, who posted the final retirement of the season in Brazil, was the first lead runner on track and he set a benchmark time of 1:41.512 but with the sun rapidly drying the track suggested his name would soon slip down the timesheets.

German Heidfeld immediately went 1.795 seconds faster than Button, despite losing time when he went wide onto the grass during his lap, and Webber then blew his Williams team-mate's time away by a further three seconds.

Klien continued Red Bull's early pace to slot into second as conditions continued to dry out to leave a mostly dry track with occasional puddles on some of the corners.

Italian Trulli then went fastest but two-time Australian Grand Prix winner Coulthard, a self-proclaimed struggler with single-lap qualifying, complained of oversteer as he finished slower than team-mate Klien.

Villeneuve chose to risk dry tyres on his Sauber but he spun on his out-lap and only just managed to avoid the walls. He was slow in the first section but his gamble paid off on the latter part of the lap and he slotted into third.

The sky began to darken as Fisichella took to the track and he set the fastest time just seconds before a massive rainstorm drenched the track and left all remaining runners with no chance of improving on the Italian's time.

The soaking circuit saw Felipe Massa, the next man out, fail to finish his lap and Takuma Sato, out next, crash his BAR-Honda on his out-lap in turn eight and hit the wall hard.

The session was red-flagged after Schumacher's run to clear the debris from Sato's crash and when it re-started his team-mate Rubens Barrichello finished 12.310 seconds off the pace in the slippery conditions.

Raikkonen managed to finish just ahead of Barrichello to nudge his way into the top ten runners but Montoya, running last after winning in Brazil last year, failed to match his team-mate's pace and finished 11th.

The finishing times will leave Sunday's grid in a topsy-turvey order and, providing there are no unusual weather patterns on Sunday, the finishing order from Saturday's session is likely to remain similar for the grid itself.
shares
comments
Stewart: Webber will Deliver but Needs More Time
Previous article

Stewart: Webber will Deliver but Needs More Time

Next article

Fisichella Fastest in First Qualifying - Australian GP

Fisichella Fastest in First Qualifying - Australian GP
Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom? Plus

Can Mercedes break Formula 1's cycle of doom?

OPINION: Teams that have dominated for long periods throughout Formula 1's history often take years to get back to the top of the tree once they've slipped down. But it remains to be seen whether the same will happen to Mercedes after a challenging 2022 season

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2022
What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi Plus

What hurt Perez most in his ill-fated fight for second in Abu Dhabi

Arguably the favourite in the battle to finish second best in 2022's Formula 1 standings, Sergio Perez's two-stop strategy at Abu Dhabi couldn't take him ahead of Charles Leclerc when the music stopped - and several key factors ultimately precluded him from the much-coveted runner-up spot

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2022
The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success Plus

The Abu Dhabi momentum that can propel Leclerc and Ferrari to F1 2023 success

OPINION: Charles Leclerc achieved his target of sealing runner-up in the 2022 world championship with a masterful drive behind Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi. And that race contained key elements that may help him, and Ferrari, go one better in Formula 1 2023

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats Plus

How Verstappen's record-breaking 2022 season compares to the F1 greats

The 2022 Formula 1 season will be remembered as a record book rewriting Max Verstappen masterclass, a completely different challenge to his maiden world championship last year, and a clear sign he is still raising his own level. But where does it stack up against the all-time great F1 campaigns?

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2022
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2022 Formula 1 season came to a close at the Yas Marina Circuit, where the battle for second in the standings was decided, the wins in a season record extended and a retiring four-time world champion bowed out on a high. Here's how we rated the drivers

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022
The factors that stopped Perez catching Leclerc in Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph Plus

The factors that stopped Perez catching Leclerc in Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph

Max Verstappen ended the 2022 Formula 1 season in fitting fashion with a dominant drive to victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But behind him, early season rival Charles Leclerc achieved his target of securing the runner-up spot with a well-executed a one-stop strategy to beat Sergio Perez, whose pursuit on a two-stop strategy was hampered by several critical factors

Formula 1
Nov 21, 2022
Why the impact of FIA’s anti-bouncing metric is hard to judge Plus

Why the impact of FIA’s anti-bouncing metric is hard to judge

Faced with drivers complaining about the long-term health effects of car ‘bouncing’, the FIA stepped in to deal with it. JAKE BOXALL-LEGGE explains how the so-called ‘Aerodynamic Oscillation Metric’ works, and asks if it is fit for purpose?

Formula 1
Nov 20, 2022
Where Vettel stands in the list of the greatest F1 drivers Plus

Where Vettel stands in the list of the greatest F1 drivers

As Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 career has come to a close, figuring out where he fits into the greatest of all time order is a tough and subjective call. With the aid of statistics, attributes and history, here’s how the four-time world champion stacks up in the debate

Formula 1
Nov 19, 2022