Alonso wins Canada pole

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Fernando Alonso won his fifth consecutive Formula One pole on Saturday at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Fernando Alonso won his fifth consecutive Formula One pole on Saturday, setting himself up for a strong run in the Canadian Grand Prix that could widen his lead in the world championship standings. Alonso has a 23-point lead over Michael Schumacher heading into Sunday's race. Schumacher qualified a distant fifth. Alonso's Renault had a time of 1 minute, 14.942 seconds on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Giancarlo Fisichella, his teammate, qualified second. "The result has been perfect for us, first and second," Alonso said. "And now we have to finish the job for tomorrow." Kimi Raikkonen, the defending race winner, was third for McLaren and Jarno Trulli was fourth for Toyota. Many believe this two-week North American swing will be the key in Alonso's bid to win a second straight championship. But the 24-year-old Spaniard has struggled in both Canada and Indianapolis, site of next week's United States Grand Prix. He has failed to finish three of his four Canadian GPs, including last year when he made a rare error and hit the wall while leading. Schumacher, meanwhile, has won this event seven previous times and Alonso expects him to challenge for an eighth victory on Sunday. Hometown star Jacques Villeneuve gave early hope of a strong qualifying run with a very good final practice. He was third fastest in the morning warmup, and looked to be a shoo-in to make it into the final qualifying segment. But it all fell apart in less than 40 seconds of the second segment. In danger of missing the top 10, he posted a fast lap in the waning moments that lofted him from 14th to ninth on the chart. But there were several other cars still on the circuit, and Honda teammates Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello both bettered Villeneuve's time to knock him down to 11th. Villeneuve is looking for a strong run on the track named after his late father. He's not been good here since 1996, when he finished second in his Canadian debut. Williams driver Mark Webber was the biggest name not to make it out of the first qualifying segment, posting just the 17th-fastest time. Joining him on the sidelines for the remaining sessions was Scott Speed, who is running in his first North American race. The American tested here last season, but has not raced an F1 car on this circuit. (AP)

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