The whole Formula 1 paddock was shocked on Saturday when Giancarlo Fisichella gave his Force India team an unexpected pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix.
The veteran Italian described the moment as the best of his life, and now he is looking to capitalise on it and give his team its first points of the year.
AUTOSPORT's Jonathan Noble talked exclusively to Fisichella after his sensational pole.
Q. How does this feel compared to your previous pole positions?
Giancarlo Fisichella: Honestly I think it's the best one. The first time was a long time ago. But this one is different. When I was at Renault I knew the car was good enough to do a pole, but today nobody expected us to be on pole. Maybe in the top ten. So doing that is something amazing, out of the norm. I'm still dreaming, because it's incredible.
Q. You said the team made steady progress during the season.
GF: Yeah, the team did a fantastic job. They did a fantastic job in the wind tunnel considering our limited budget. I think we have done the best job in all the paddock, better than Ferrari, than McLaren, for sure. At the beginning of the season maybe we were nearly two seconds slower than the leaders and now we are a few tenths. So it's amazing. Already yesterday I saw a good possibility to do well, because I was sixth, but the car was not balanced well. There was some problem with the front wing adjustment and the figure with the data in the wind tunnel. We went through the problem during the night and this morning we put the car on the ground and straight away I felt the potential. So we were confident of being in the top 15, difficult to be in the top 10, and now we are on pole.
Q. When did you get a first hint that it was going to be so good?
GF: Well, in Q1 I was quickest and Adrian was fourth quickest, I think. So we were in good shape, but it was too early, because maybe the top teams did not use the soft tires or the full revs. So I said 'we can do well'. But when I was fourth quickest in Q2 then I said 'we can do for sure the first three rows'. We went for quite an aggressive strategy. It was the key to be on pole, for sure.
Q. What was your first feeling in the car after the session ended?
GF: I was very confused, because just after the finish line I was expecting something from my engineer, and he called me and he says 'Throttle P9'. I only understood P9. And I thought it's impossible, because I did a good lap and I thought 'I'm not ninth'. I called him and asked where we were and he said 'we are on pole, we are on pole!' I was dreaming, and so happy. It was actually one of the best moments of my life.
Q. Your races have been very good lately, but your qualifying has not been so good.
GF: Actually today I had the best qualifying of my life. Everything was going perfect. All the laps without any trouble, without any traffic, every lap was clean. This year it had never happened. There was also some problem with the tires or the traffic, so today was my day for sure.
Q. Barrichello says experience is a very important factor this year.
GF: Probably yes. First of all, I'm really happy for Rubens for winning the last race. I think he's a fantastic guy and driver. And he came to me at the end of qualifying and congratulates me, so that was great. I think what he says is right. A driver with good experience could be the key sometimes, especially in my case with a new team. I think we've done a fantastic job so far.
Q. Some people, five or six races ago, might have said 'Giancarlo is going to finish the season and be gone'. Now you are on pole.
GF: That's a big motivation for me, to go ahead, and to think positively in Formula 1. For me last year and the first part of this season were very frustrating. Fighting for the last positions was frustrating. Now I want to continue. When I can fight for the top ten and to score points, then there's the motivation to go ahead.
Q. Is the Ferrari speculation giving you renewed hopes?
GF: That's speculation because nobody has called me yet. But obviously I'm on pole and Luca is last, so it could happen. If they call me I have to think about it. Today I'm on pole, I'm quicker than Raikkonen if we have more or less the same fuel.
Q. What do you feel your prospects are for tomorrow? You think you can win it?
GF: Winning is a big word, but we have a good opportunity to do well. Our main target is to score a point, which is like winning a race, but considering where we are I think I can score quite a lot of points. The target from where we are I think it could be top six, but starting on pole the hope is to get on the podium.