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Alonso seizes pole position in China
Alan Baldwin | September 30, 2006 14:30 IST
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, two points behind the Spaniard with two races to come after Shanghai, will start a disappointing sixth at a circuit where he has yet to finish higher than 12th.
The news was immediately relayed to Alonso as he cruised back to the pits and to a team delighted with what could prove a decisive afternoon in a knife-edge title battle.
"I think we are very optimistic, very confident," said the 25-year-old. "We are quick in the dry, quick in the wet and for the last three races I love the circuits. The team knows how to win in those circuits as well so I have no reason to be nervous."
The pole position was Renault's 50th in Formula One and Alonso's 15th, but first since he triumphed in Canada in June.
The champion was also on pole in China last year and went on to win that race.
"If tomorrow we have a normal race, with dry conditions, we will be really, really strong," said Alonso.
"If it is wet like this we are strong as well but it is always very dangerous and difficult to finish the race sometimes.
"The main thing for us is to finish in front of Ferrari."
Alonso's Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella lines up alongside him on the front row -- a boost for Renault's constructors' title hopes with Ferrari's Felipe Massa having to start at the back of the grid after a 10-place penalty for an engine change on Friday.
Ferrari are three points ahead of champions Renault.
"Definitely we are too slow and that's very obvious," conceded Schumacher. "If the conditions stay like this it's going to be very difficult, but if its drier we'll see. It's a long race.
"If we have to lose some points here, then we still have two races to go," he added.
Honda's Rubens Barrichello and Briton Jenson Button -- a winner in the wet in Hungary last month -- will line up right behind the Renaults.
Brazilian Barrichello, victorious in the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix with Ferrari in 2004, ended the decisive third qualifying session with exactly the same lap time as his team mate -- 1:45.503.
"I love the wet, everybody knows that it comes my way so many times, I've won races in the wet," said Barrichello. "But if it's a dry race it's probably safer."
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth on an afternoon when tyres made all the difference. Schumacher was the only driver on Bridgestone rubber in a top 10 dominated by Michelin.
The seven-times champion had to summon all his reserves of skill and experience to get as high as he did, making the final session by the skin of his teeth after languishing in 14th place as the seconds ticked away.
However his final lap, started just before the chequered flag, hauled him up to eighth and a place in the final shoot-out.
The opening session was red-flagged after Spyker/Midland driver Tiago Monteiro stopped on the track at turn two and the treacherous conditions caught out others as the afternoon continued.
American Scott Speed skidded off into the barriers in his Toro Rosso and both Fisichella and Barrichello splashed off into the gravel trap.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage