Giancarlo Fisichella took an historic and surprising first pole position for Force India in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.
The 36-year-old Italian veteran took his fourth career pole in an extraordinary session, though the car had looked quick through the weekend.
Fisichella -- rumored to be in line to replace Luca Badoer at Ferrari for Monza -- kept up the tradition of old-timers following Rubens Barrichello's European GP triumph to set a time of 1m46.308s that could not be matched by Jarno Trulli's Toyota or Nick Heidfeld's third-placed BMW.
Barrichello was the top "front-runner" in fourth position. The Brazilian is well-placed to make up ground on the championship leader and team-mate Jenson Button, who failed to make it out of Q2.
Robert Kubica was fifth fastest in the second BMW, having briefly occupied a front row slot until the final shakedown in the last minute of the session.The Pole will start just in front of Kimi Raikkonen, who was sixth ahead of Timo Glock, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, who did well to wrestle the Williams into the top ten.
Several of the big names were knocked out in a curious Q2 session. Trulli set the early pace in Q2 with an incredible 1m44.865s in the Toyota. He then lowered that to an even more amazing 1m44.766s.That was good enough for much of the session, until Fisichella thumped in a 1m44.667s in the final moments. But even that was not the fastest time as Trulli managed a 1m44.503s to take the top place back again. Then Kubica and Vettel pushed the Force India back to fourth.
All this action at the front contributed to those famous names being knocked out of Q3 -- Lewis Hamilton ending up 12th, Fernando Alonso 13th and Button 14th. The Brawn driver in particular was perplexed to have been unable to match Barrichello who, of course, did make it through in sixth.
Fisichella had already impressed in Q1, setting the fastest time, 0.38s faster than Trulli's Toyota. Barrichello meanwhile was third in the opening segment of qualifying, despite running off the track at Fagnes early on, ahead of the second Force of India Sutil and the Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel.
Alonso only made it into Q2 by the skin of his teeth, having ruined his best lap after running wide on the exit of Fagnes. Button and Hamilton also only just made it through too, in 14th and 15th positions.
Luca Badoer, who needed to find 0.5sec on his final run -- having set a personal best of 1m46.957s -- crashed at Les Combes after going wide on the entry on his final attempt. It rendered him last on the grid.
Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari, Kazuki Nakajima and Romain Grosjean all also failed to make it beyond the opening 20 minutes.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:45.102 1:44.667 1:46.308
2. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:45.140 1:44.503 1:46.395
3. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:45.566 1:44.709 1:46.500
4. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:45.237 1:44.834 1:46.513
5. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:45.655 1:44.557 1:46.586
6. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:45.579 1:44.953 1:46.633
7. Glock Toyota (B) 1:45.450 1:44.877 1:46.677
8. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:45.372 1:44.592 1:46.761
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:45.350 1:44.924 1:46.788
10. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:45.486 1:45.047 1:47.362
11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:45.486 1:45.119
12. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:45.239 1:45.122
13. Alonso Renault (B) 1:45.767 1:45.136
14. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:45.707 1:45.251
15. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:45.761 1:45.259
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:45.705
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:45.951
18. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:46.032
19. Grosjean Renault (B) 1:46.307
20. Badoer Ferrari (B) 1:46.359
All Timing Unofficial