Fisichella stuns with Spa pole position for Force India

Belgian Grand Prix qualifying

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Giancarlo Fisichella’s morning got off to a bad start when he hit a rabbit during practice and had to replace his front wing.

But he seized his opportunity in an unpredictable qualifying session to grab his first pole posiiton in three years – and Force India’s first ever.


Qualifying at Spa began in cool conditions with the track temperature around 25C. The temperature proved critical during the session as the teams struggled to pick the most suitable tyres for the conditions. Unusually, the softer tyre was often not the way to go.

Toyota seemed to be revelling in the track and the conditions to begin with, with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock heading the times sheets.

At first the Brawns were behind them, showing some improvement in their low-temperature performance. Nick Heidfeld then took over as fastest driver, maintaining his form from practice.

As the final set of laps began the bottom five places were occupied by Romain Grosjean, Nico Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima, Jaime Alguersuari and Luca Badoer.

There were differing fortunes for the three Italians at the end of the session. Jarno Trulli took over the top spot, then lost it to Giancarlo Fisichella, who did three laps on the medium tyre to set his time. Remarkably the Force India driver was still on top at the end of Q1. It would prove not to be a one-off.

Luca Badoer, however, cut the Les Combes chicane and crashed into the barriers on his last effort, nearly taking out Sebastian Vettel as he went. Rumours suggest Fisichella could be in his car at the Italian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton had a poor final lap which left him vulnerable as the session drew to a close. He ended up 15th, just one place and two tenths of a second above the drop zone.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1’45.951
17. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1’46.032
18. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams-Toyota – 1’46.307
19. Romain Grosjean, Renault – 1’46.359
20. Luca Badoer, Ferrari – 1’46.957


Jarno Trulli was the fastest driver again as the second part of qualifying started. Behind him the Red Bulls began to show their pace, as did the Brawns.

But the times were extraordinarily close – with six minutes to go Rubens Barrichello in fifth was only 0.17s faster than Adrian Sutil in 11th.

Fernando Alonso, Sutil, Heidfeld, Kovalainen and Rosberg occupied the bottom five as the final laps began. Rosberg only emerged from the pits once, running a sequence of laps in the hope of building up to a quick enough time.

Fisichella once again set the fastest time, just as Hamilton was struggling to set the tenth-fastest time, a mere 0.014s quicker than Alonso. But as Heidfeld and Rosberg improved Hamilton and Alonso were squeezed out.

But the biggest surprise of all was Jenson Button, who wasn’t able to get a good time out of the soft tyres and ended up 14th an eliminated from qualifying. He was 0.4s slower than team mate Barrichello, who was sixth.

A stunning session ended with Fisichella top of the times ahead of Robert Kubica and Vettel – and some very big names knocked out.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes – 1’45.119
12. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes – 1’45.122
13. Fernando Alonso, Renault – 1’45.136
14. Jenson Button, Brawn-Mercedes – 1’45.251
15. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes – 1’45.259


The final part of qualifying saw a surprising line-up compromising both BMWs, Toyotas and Red Bulls, plus Giancarlo Fisichella, Kimi Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg.

Most of the cars began the session on soft tyres but, as Button has discovered, they proved not to be quick enough. All the drivers bar Raikkonen pitted and switched back to the medium tyres.

Nick Heidfeld beat Raikkonen’s time on his second lap on hard tyres, but Fisichella’s penultimate run – a 1’46.308 – was too quick for any of them. Jarno Trulli got closest, with a 1’46.395 on his final effort, but had to settle for second.

Continuing an unpredictable grid, Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica took third and fifth for BMW, sandwiching Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn.

The fuel weights will make interesting reading when they’re published later. But for now, it’s Fisichella and Force India’s moment to savour.

Update: Fuel weights have been announced: Trulli in strong position to beat Fisichella (Belgian Grand Prix fuel and strategy)

Read more: Belgian Grand Prix grid

Top ten drivers in Q3

1. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India-Mercedes – 1’46.308
2. Jarno Trulli, Toyota – 1’46.395
3. Nick Heidfeld, BMW – 1’46.500
4. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn-Mercedes – 1’46.513
5. Robert Kubica, BMW – 1’46.586
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1’46.633
7. Timo Glock, Toyota – 1’46.677
8. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault – 1’46.761
9. Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault – 1’46.788
10. Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota – 1’47.362

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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85 comments on “Fisichella stuns with Spa pole position for Force India”

  1. StrFerrari4Ever
    29th August 2009, 14:20

    That was absolutely breathtaking best qualifying session I’ve ever seen it had so much action. Mclarens,Alonso,Button out in Q2 then Q3 don’t even get me started on Q3 that was out of this world.

    Fisichella drove fantastically to stick the Force India on pole I’m so glad for him personally and the whole FI team they have put in a helluva load of work to get to this stage and good luck for them in a race.

    Also a mention to Toyota & BMW Sauber how awesome was it to see Kubica & Heidfeld pushing that hard aswell as Trulli shows you how good F1 can be :D

  2. Bravo!!!

    I doubt anyone expected that. I have a feeling this might be a low scoring round for everyone’s predictions.

    I have been wanting to see Force India score all year. The team has come close, only to have the chance ruined by another driver. Hopefully, the team will finally score at Spa. We’ll wait and see how much fuel Fisi has on board.

  3. Well chances for points for Force India couldn’t get much better except if Sutil had got p2 lol Interesting to know what fisi’s fuel loads are.
    I bet on Vettel for the race win as well:(
    As a Ferrari fan would love to see Kimi shine at the track he is the master of but I would prefer it if Trulli could grab the win for a team who desperately needs it and so he can keep his job with Toyota

  4. And I was asleep all afternoon!!!!!!!

    HOW HOW HOW!! I am cursing myself so much!!!

    Anyways, it doesn’t seem as if FIS is too light, if he also topped Q1

  5. Grace Lovvorn
    29th August 2009, 14:26

    Without hesistation, this is definitely the most interesting qualifying there has been in a while. I’m not a Force India fan at all, actually I thought they were annoying because they were just there. No wins, no podiums…no points, even. Boy, was I wrong. And then Trulli and Heidfeld behind Fisichella. Again, very shocked. Maybe we just needed some Spa magic to separate the boys from the men.

    1. FYI – they are a new team that was born out of a team that did have wins and podiums…

  6. This is race is gonna be EPIC!

  7. hope of ferrari gave fisico his youth back!

  8. OMG!!!! BEST QUALIFYING SESSION EVER!!!! Brawn who? This is even less probable than Brawn’s Australia pole. THIS IS AKIN TO FRANCE DEFEATING GERMANY!!!! Cannot wait for the race tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I’d say it was more akin to Papua New Guinea beating Brazil at football

      1. I’ll second that!

      2. It was akin to India defeating England at football.

        1. or an indian landing on the moon!!

          1. One did, but they haven’t NASA yet and can’t get the pictures.

          2. oops “paid NASA”

  9. If Force India don’t score points tomorrow, they’ll propably never will :)
    Sutil is not in a bad position either (In fact, it’s Force India’s 3rd best ever grid position)…he can choose his strategy now and I think he’ll fill it up a bit more.

    By the way Keith, I think Fisi was only 4th fastest in Q2, not first.

    1. Force India are the masters of stealing defeat from the jaws of victory. I’ve got a bad feeling they’ll somehow not score points.

      My prediction is they’ll be on course for a 1-2 on the final lap, then Kimi Raikkonen will appear driving the wrong way around the track and take them both out

      1. If history is any indicator of the future, you’re going to by 100% right Ned Flanders!!
        But I hope you’re wrong and Fisi scores some points and gets to drive the Ferrari at Monza!!

  10. Prisoner Monkeys
    29th August 2009, 14:29

    So, who saw that coming? The first laps are going to be very ineresting!

    I also think Button’s poor placing might be a blessing in disguise. Toyota have proven you can get some very respectable results if you run heavy, and Button gets to choose his race weight. We all know he likes a heavier car over a light one. Plus, he’s got Ross Brawn, the master tactician, and the car is pretty decent in the first and third sectors. If eveyone gets stuck behind the Trulli Train early on, Button’s aggressive approach – plus his use of common sense, like in Valencia – could see him do something we won’t see coming.

    1. Didn’t help Rubens in Hungary.

  11. I think-
    1. Trulli
    2. Rubens
    3. Nick/Fisichella
    Look out for Kimi will be a threat at start!!

    RBR was expected to be quick, may be engine woe mean they have to decrease revs??

    1. Hard Working Force India
      29th August 2009, 15:01

      I expect KIMI to be there.

  12. I’m at work, and have been following via Twitter and BBC’s text commentary. Wow! I’d say Fisichella must be very light, but seeing he was fastest in Q2 I’m not so sure. We shall see. Interesting prospect for the race. I have money on a Kimi win, and I reckon it’ll be between him and Rubens, and maybe Jarno. Can’t wait!

  13. After Fisichella left Renault, did anyone honestly think he would ever get near Q3, never mind pole position?

    -Fisi’s first pole since Malaysia 2006 (I think)
    -The teams first pole since Nurburgring 1999, as Jordan
    -Every curent F1 team now taken a pole position at least once, all within the last 4 and a bit years. Williams have gone the longest since their last pole

    What a crazy day! I can’t wait for the fuel weights now

  14. WOW>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Fisico, the flying Indian

    1. Grace Lovvorn
      29th August 2009, 14:54

      To clarify, the flying Italian driving for an Indian team.

      1. Hard Working Force India
        29th August 2009, 15:00

        Who needs clarification???
        “Italian” & “Indian”. Combination becoming a FORCE to reckon with.
        Watch out for tomorrow.

        Good luck.

        1. Just a coincidence or what? the Indian government is headed by an italian, her name is Sonia Gandhi. Now we have an italian driver giving the first ever Indian team, its first ever pole position!!

        2. Grace Lovvorn
          29th August 2009, 15:11

          Well, we’ll just have to see what happens tomorrow. I really don’t know what to expect, because the WDC leaders are all in the back, and here we have someone who we all thought could never do this. I think we should be optimistic, because think about it…Wouldn’t it be amazing if Fisi won Spa? That’s no easy task!

      2. To clarify, the flying Italian driving for an Indian team.

        “an indian team” .just Awesome to hear that phrase. Surely, this must wake up some sleeping idiots in India. We’ve had an Indian driver, an indian team on ‘pole”, hope so they go on to win it, surely the chain isn’t complete without an indian circuit. This result comes in the backdrop of the news that the indian mission to moon “chandrayaan” has failed!!

        The Indian govt must scrap the next moon mission & use that funding for building an F1 track.

        1. well, then i proclaim fisico an honorary Indian…

    2. Let’s be honest, Force India are about as Indian as bratwurst (ie not very), but that doesn’t mean I’m not desperate to hear the Indian national anthem on the podium tomorrow!!

  15. At least it was different….

    Congrast to the ‘KingFisher’ :)

    Badoer, nice to have met you, bye bye, bring in the next one!

  16. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
    29th August 2009, 14:39

    Jordan whoops! I mean Force India are back

  17. This is already shaping up to be the most exciting GP of the year. Fisi on pole, Toyota’s and BMW’s up front, Mac’s, Button and Alonso mid-pack. Throw in Spa’s unpredictable weather and this could be another classic at Spa!!!

  18. I suppose the jubilation over Fisichella’s excellent pole will draw attention away from what an abysmal job Button did this afternoon. Does he not know he’s got a championship to win?

  19. Great Job by Force India. Would be interesting to see the fuel-corrected grid to know who exactly was the fastest.

    I have a sneaky feeling it might be Rubens Barricehllo, and with Webber, Vettel and Button all behind him, he can hope to close the gap in the championship standings.

    My predo for 2moro’s race would be:
    1. Kimi
    2. Rubens
    3. Trulli

  20. Ethnic_Tension
    29th August 2009, 14:46

    Did some quick calculations based in lap time differences between Q3 and Q2. Fuel loads appear to be if the following order (lightest to heaviest).
    1 – Fisichella
    2=3 – Barrichello, Räikkönen
    4=5 – Heidfeld, Glock
    6=7 – Webber, Trulli
    8 – Kubica
    9 – Vettel
    10 – Rosberg

  21. If Trulli would’ve gone straight on the final approach to the finish, he would’ve been closer to Fisi if not P1. Also seemed as everybody thought/thinks it is perfectly normal for BMW to end up so high…. even after their crappy season so far. Interesting quali, that’s for sure!

    And I’ve given up on the BBC commentary, it is as bad as any other network.

    1. I opted to listen to Radio 5 live audio for qualifying this time and skipped Brundle+Legard, and I found Anthony Davidson makes sure there’s a lot of sanity. It was AD and Kroft ( & Holly), just like in the practice sessions, and I really enjoyed some level-headed commentary.

      I also like their sense of humor, so I may be biased a little bit.

  22. Absolutely crazy!!! I hope he goes on to win tomorrow :) I sincerely want the Indian national Anthem to be played on the podium. Good speed to fisi & Force India.

    1. Me too!!!!

  23. Hard Working Force India
    29th August 2009, 14:56

    WOW !!!
    Force India & Fisichella on pole.

    All the best for race tomorrow. Team name truely justified.

  24. Fisichella had odds of 150/1 for pole position before qualifying today. Wish I’d seen that coming…

    1. Did any one in the predictions vote for Fisi???

  25. I am very happy for Fisichella, I hope he savors this moment to the fullest. I tend to have a soft spot for the old guard, and am always happy to see them do well. The fuel loads will be interesting, but seeing his Q1 and Q2 times, I can’t imagine him being too light.

  26. Question –
    Did anyone pick Fisi for pole?
    :-o surprised face!

  27. if fisico crashs out 2morro nah///// thats it…

  28. A stunning session ended with Fisichella top of the times ahead of Robert Kubica and Vettel

    I think it was Trulli, Kubica, Vettel, and then Fisichella in Q2.

  29. what was the deal with vettel and webber on last lap, it looked to me seb held up webber and then ducked into pits late…not mention anywhere, but from the footage I saw, from the car following, it seemed that webber was held up at the last lap

  30. what was the deal with vettel and webber on last lap, it looked to me seb held up webber and then ducked into pits late…not mention anywhere, but from the footage I saw, from the car following, it seemed that webber was held up at the last lap last corner

  31. To be honest, I would have bet on Sutil for pole, not Fisichella if I had to choose between the Force Indias.

    Kimi or Rubens for the win.

  32. I’m off to collect my winnings – I had £30 on Fisi to get pole.

    1. Presumably your joking, otherwise you’d be on holiday with your winnings right now

  33. Did anyone else’s jaw drop throughout that session?


  34. kimi has a great chance if hes got a good fuel load, he should get a good start with his kers.

    1. ahem… FI doesnt have KERS yet!

      1. oops… i thought u were referring fisico.. since hez in d spot light 2night!

  35. After a long time the Formula1 session really surprised me……..After a monotonous first half the second half is come alive……I doubt Fisi or Dr Mallya even in their wildest dreams would have thought of pole……..Seriously surprised me in all the 3 sessions….Go fisi GO!!!!!

    1. By the way did they use petrol or king Fisher strong beer!!!! :)

  36. Anyone notice the Red Bull cars are back to the narrow nose section rather than the platypus style, kind of wide at the front, nose this wekend. STR still using the platypus nose. Must be an aero thing?

  37. Just brilliant!

  38. Bigbadderboom
    29th August 2009, 16:45

    I watched quali on a grainy old tv set in a hospital waiting room (missus fractured her leg), the signal kept disappearing, god I do wonder where all my taxes go, you would at least think i could get a digital tv reception in hospital. Had interesting chat with a guy who said to me as quali started he though the Force Indias would be quick, I sniggered and he left before the end of Q2, now i’m wondering who he was!!!!!!

  39. The stewards have announced Mark Webber impeded another driver during qualifying. He has been given a reprimand and will not get a penalty.

    1. Is it Vettel?

    2. Mussolini's Pet Cat
      29th August 2009, 17:01

      How come he doesnt get a penalty??? Double standards at play again..

      1. yea, totally, that’s weird…

      2. Depends on what happened exactly. Haven’t seen any video of it. Has anyone else?

  40. Another fairy tale of this season.(Other one’s Brawn’s, for sure)
    Force India and McLaren made most improvement throughout the season, beyond question. Good for them.
    For victory, my money’s on Raikkonen/Barichello. Rubinho’s hunting some points for the title.
    It should be an awesome race. Can’t wait.

  41. what was the deal with vettel and webber on last lap, it looked to me seb held up webber and then ducked into pits late…not mention anywhere, but from the footage I saw, from the car following, it seemed that webber was held up at the last lap last corner

    Didn’t catch that, but it seems Webber has gotten a penalty, so you mighyt have confused the two? I was looking for car weights and came across this:

    Looks like he’ll be getting a Penalty on top of his poor qualifying result.

    1. There is no penalty. It was only a reprimand. For an incident in Q3.

  42. I am really happy for Fisichella. I hope he can get some points tomorrow, possibly a podium if everything goes right for him. Well done Fisi.

  43. Oh man this one I had to have seen… didn’t wake up :(

  44. Fuel weights are in:

    He’s the second lightest (next to Rubens), but doesn’t seem to be rediculously light. Trulli and Heidfeld are both looking strong, as does Raikonnen really, with his superpowers.

  45. With Raikkonen,Barrichello,Vettel and Webber so close to the front this should be a VERY interesting race.I hope Heidfeld can hold onto his podium though.At least he could end his BMW years with a Spa podiumn.

  46. Ironically, the top 4 for tomorrows race could all be out of a job next season. Extraordinary session.

    Can’t wait for the race.

  47. I left a comment elsewhere that I would catch the Ferrari drive at Monza before Fisi would: Hoo-ha on me, great drive by Giancarlo!

    Is there anyone who believes this will translate into a win? Hard to figure, almost more unlikely than pole.

    I have to root for any of the top 3 Q drivers for the win, just to keep the this season of amazing results going! Best F1 year in recent memory.

  48. Fantastuc quali session, well done Fisi! I wonder if the red guys are watching :)

    Really looking forward to the race, I love Spa!

  49. Trulli & Toyota best chance to win a race.
    Force India & Fishichello best chance to score points if not podiums.
    It will be KIMI VS TRULLI for the top step & Rubens, Vettel, Neidfeld, Fishichello for 2nd & 3rd
    The champions Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Kovalainen charging from behind & Kimi KERS will see its use.


  50. Prisoner Monkeys
    30th August 2009, 5:53

    If Force India scre a win or a podium here, how long do you think it will be before the Indian government changes its mind and decides Formula One is a sport after all?

    1. Hehe, good point!

      1. Prisoner Monkeys
        30th August 2009, 9:47

        You heard it here first.

  51. Given recent form I think if you had said the top three on the grid would be a Force India, Toyota and a BMW, not many would have believed you.

    Although I don’t think either of these three teams will get the win hopefully Force India can finally get their first points.

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