Sepang: Pipped by Hondas Rubens Barichello in the last corner, Force Indias Giancarlo Fisichella will start 17th in Sundays Malaysian Grand Prix after yet again coming tantalisingly close to making the cut for the second qualifying session here Saturday.
Fellow Force India driver Adrian Sutil, who struggled to get the car balance on the softer tyres, will start 21st on the grid.
It turned out to be almost a repeat show of Melbourne as Fisichella once again impressed in the final practice session and looked set to make it to the second qualifying session before Barichello marred his party with just .042 seconds separating them.
Apart from both the Force India drivers, Super Aguris Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Bourdais of Toro Rosso and Kazuki Nakajima of Williams were also knocked out in the first qualifying session.
First included in the Formula One world championship in 1999, the Malaysian Grand Prix is held at the hyper-modern Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Malaysia. It is slated to become a night race from 2009.
Circuit length: 5.543 km
Race length: 310.408 km
Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:34.223 (2004)
Winner: Fernando Alonso (McLaren-Mercedes) 1:32:14.930
Pole: Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1:35.043
Fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) 1:36.701
1999 — Eddie Irvine, Ferrari
2000 — Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2001 — Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2002 — Ralf Schumacher, Williams-BMW
2003 — Kimi Räikkönen, McLaren-Mercedes
2004 — Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2005 — Alonso, Renault
2006 — Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2007 — Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes
Force India, however, can take heart from the fact that while other teams fastest lap times in qualifying have remained the same as in 2007, the Vijay Mallya-owned side improved its quickest lap by over two seconds.
Just five hundredths away from Q2, it was very close. I am a little disappointed with not getting there, but I did my best and did a fantastic lap, Fisichella, a champion here with Renault in 2006, said.
Despite not making it to Q2, Fisichella remained optimistic about the car.
Its very encouraging — just five hundredths from the top 16 and Q2, and just under a second from the quickest lap time of that session — it is very promising for the future, said the Italian.
Sutil too shared his teammates optimism. It was not a good qualifying, but to be honest I was expecting this as we had not had a great practice in the morning ... In the race and over longer runs I think we are better.
Chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne admitted it was frustrating to be within a second of the quickest time in the first session and still be 17th on the grid. (PTI)