Alonso gains pole position for French GP

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Overall leader Fernando Alonso of Spain gained the pole position for the French Grand Prix Saturday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:52 IST
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Overall leader Fernando Alonso of Spain gained the pole position for the French Grand Prix Saturday. Alonso, in clocking 1 minute, 14.412 seconds on an overcast day, picked up his third pole of the season and the sixth of his career. "Last year I had the pole here, the only one of the 2004 season," Alonso said. "The whole weekend has been good. I felt the car the car had good balance and it gave me extra confidence." The Spaniard said he is keen to please the French crowd in his Renault. "I am pleased to do it here in France and all our supporters," Alonso said. "This weekend there are 6,000 people here from all over Renault so it will be an important race." Toyota's Jarno Trulli, who held pole in the US Grand Prix where seven teams withdrew from racing, was second with 1:14.521. The Italian driver is anxious for talk to return to action on the track. "Now we are back on the job," Trulli said. "Indianapolis was a big disappointment for the public. We would have liked to race." Raikkonen gets third position Kimi Raikkonen of McLaren-Mercedes was third in qualifying in 1:14.559. Raikkonen will be penalized 10 spots on his qualifying position of third, having changed his engine following its failure during Friday's practice. "It was not the best way to start the weekend. It is going to cost us a lot," Raikkonen said. The Finnish driver said it could come down to strategy with pit stops. "We are just going to see where the others are stopping. We will see tomorrow," he said. "I still think we can get close to the podium." Schumacher in fourth Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher was fourth in 1:14.572 in his Ferrari. "Obviously I will try to fight as much as we can and maybe even go for the victory," Schumacher said. "I always have to believe I can win. Of course it will be difficult but it will be a long race. "Even so, this is a better position that we have found ourselves in most of the races this season." The German, who has won in France seven times, is wary of Raikkonen despite the Finn being relegated to 13th spot on the grid. "You can never underestimate Kimi," he said. "You never know what can happen tomorrow in the race. There could be a safety car situation or something else. You should not count him out." Alonso leads in points Raikkonen won three of the four races before withdrawing from the US GP. He was also leading two other races before his car broke down – including on the final lap at the European Grand Prix. Alonso has 59 points in the overall standings, followed by Raikkonen with 37 and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher with 34. BAR-Honda's Takuma Sato had the fifth fastest time - 1:14.655, but he will start on the second row following Raikkonen's demotion. Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello and Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella will be on the third row of the grid. (AP)

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