Bahrain GP: Alonso on provisional pole

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Championship leader Fernando Alonso fended off a Ferrari fightback to grab provisional pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:51 IST
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Sakhir, Bahrain:

Championship leader Fernando Alonso fended off a Ferrari fightback to grab provisional pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday. The Spaniard is chasing Renault's third pole and third win in three races this season. Toyota's Jarno Trulli was second, with seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher taking provisional third place in Ferrari's new car. The Formula One circus has moved on to Bahrain for the third grand prix of what has so far been a highly entertaining - and highly unpredictable - season. Guided tour Before Saturday's qualifying sessions, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone gave King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa a guided tour of the paddock. The Bahraini king was particularly keen, it seemed, to see Ferrari's new F2005 at first hand. Perhaps bin Isa al-Khalifa is considering purchasing one for his own personal fleet of cars, which, one would assume, is already fairly extensive. With track temperatures well above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), a resurgent Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber of Williams-BMW split the lead times in the morning session. The Australian was unable to replicate his earlier form in the later session, but still did enough to secure a provisional sixth place. Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, who won the season-opener in Australia, lit up what was threatening to be a sluggish qualifying session in the searing track temperatures. The Italian's aggressive run of one minute, 30.445 seconds midway through the session was good enough to see him finish fifth overall by the end. Nick Heidfeld was an impressive fourth for Williams, who will be extremely happy with their day's work. Heidfeld's time of one minute, 30.390 was 55 thousandths-of-a-second quicker than Fisichella. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, was third in Ferrari's new F2005 model, and is well placed to improve on his best qualifying result this year - 13th in Malaysia. Ferrari had rushed their new car into action after mediocre performances with a modified version of last year's model. His Ferrari team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, was kept out of practice on Saturday morning because of gearbox problems, and was 15th fastest in the afternoon. Trulli in form Italian Jarno Trulli was second for Toyota, and is on course for his third front row start in succession. Trulli, who was sacked by Renault in acrimonious circumstances last season, has been hugely impressive so far this year in a car that was barely expected to challenge for points, let alone podium finishes. But it was to be Renault's day on Saturday as overall championship leader Fernando Alonso stole provisional pole with a blistering final lap. The Spaniard brushed off the threat of Ferrari's new car and took a significant step towards his fifth pole position of his career. Alonso leads the overall standings with 16 points, and team-mate Fisichella is second with 10. Michael Schumacher has just two points so far. The second qualifying session is scheduled to take place four hours before Sunday's race, and the combined times will determine starting positions. (AP)

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