Massa takes pole position at Bahrain

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Felipe Massa took the pole position on Saturday for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Updated: April 15, 2007 13:20 IST
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Sakhir, Bahrain:

Felipe Massa took the pole position on Saturday for the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading the field in qualifying for the fourth time in the last five Formula One races.

It was the fifth career pole, and second straight, for the Ferrari driver. He ended the 2006 season with two pole positions, but only won the Brazilian GP.

Massa was timed at 1 minute, 32.652 seconds on the 5.412-kilometer Bahrain International Circuit ahead of Sunday's 57-lap race.

"I think the car is competitive. Today, we showed a very quick car. Tomorrow, hopefully we can put things together," Massa said.

Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was second in 1:32.935, ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen at 1:33.131.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso was fourth in 1:33.192.

Hamilton, a 22-year-old British rookie and F1's first black driver, can make F1 history this weekend. No driver has started his F1 career with three consecutive finishes in the top three _ Hamilton finished third in Australia and second in Malaysia.

"It's only my third race in Formula One and to get a front-row (spot) is an amazing thing," Hamilton said.

Hamilton had to deal with changing wind conditions that blew up sand on his final qualifying lap.

"You need to pull out everything in that last lap," Hamilton said. "It is quite tough to put the car on the limit and anticipate what is going to happen."

Raikkonen won the Australian GP after starting top of the grid, but Massa finished fifth at the following Malaysian GP behind winner Alonso despite having pole position.

"Hopefully it will be different," Massa said. "For sure, last Sunday was not a very easy day for us. I was disappointed, starting in front and knowing the car was good.

"Our car was stronger than what we showed in the race _ losing the position at the start and some mistakes in the middle of the race. Hopefully this time we can show a better result."

Crucial start

Raikkonen, who led both practices on Friday, thinks the start will be crucial.

"I think a lot of things depends on where we come out of the first corner," Raikkonen said.

Ferrari did well in February testing here and has new engines after two races. But Hamilton thinks McLaren has closed the gap.

"Coming here we seem to be stronger than we were in the tests and we are closer to Ferrari," he said. "Perhaps we are more comfortable with the circuit. For sure we will have a strong race and it will be interesting to see what happens."

Raikkonen, who finished third at Malaysia behind the two McLarens, said he had to preserve his engine in the last race and wasn't able to challenge Alonso.

After two races, Alonso leads the standings with 18 points, two ahead of Raikkonen and four in front of Hamilton.

Alonso won the Bahrain GP last year in a stretch during which he won six of the first nine races for Renault. He switched to McLaren at the end of the season, while Raikkonen moved from McLaren to Ferrari.

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