SEPANG: Fernando Alonso from Team Renault pulled off a major surprise by becoming the youngest ever driver in Formula One history to grab pole position after emerging fastest in qualifying for the Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at the Sepang F1 Circuit yesterday.
Alonso, who only turns 22 this July 29, clocked a flying lap of 1:37.044 in the second qualifying session to win a first career pole position start.
He was the eleventh driver to shoot out from the pits but his attempt proved good enough to end Michael Schumacher's perfect qualifying record in Malaysia.
The Ferrari driver has started from pole position in all four previous Malaysian GPs so far but his impressive record came to an end at the hands of a young Spaniard, who will only be making his 19th GP start.
Alonso not only created history as the youngest to qualify on pole but will also be the first Spanish driver to do so.
Previously, Rubens Barrichello was the youngest driver to take pole position. He achieved the feat in the Belgium GP held at the Spa circuit when he was only 22 years, three months and five days old.
Alonso's teammate Jarno Trulli make it a double joy when his time of 1:37.217 was also good enough to put both Renault cars on the front row grid.
Schumacher, who clocked the fastest time in Friday's qualifying session, was the last to come out from the pits.
However, the reigning world champion failed to steer his Ferrari car to the front row when he finished third fastest with 1:37.393.
It was only 0.349 seconds slower than Trulli's time but significantly it marks the first time since the European GP last June that a Ferrari car will not be on the front row grid.
McLaren's David Coulthard will also start on second row in fourth place after clocking 1:37.454 while Michael's teammate Rubens Barrichello will start from fifth place with 1:37.579.
FIA have certainly intended to create an element of uncertainly when they introduced the one-shot qualifying format this season.
And Alonso took full advantage to emerge the star of the day.
The young Spaniard was still on cloud nine after Schumacher and the other top drivers failed to dip under his qualifying effort.
“This is a special moment for me and I will remember it for my entire life. It's a fantastic to grab my first pole position start in Malaysia here, and only at the second race of the season,” said Alonso, who was Alex Yoong's partner when they featured for Minardi in 2001.
Alonso said he did not expect his timing who enable him to take pole position.
“It was really a strange feeling when all the top drivers crossed the line and my time were still on top. I am simply delighted and very confident that we can win more points for the team in the race tomorrow (today),” said Alonso, who finished seventh in the season opening GP at Melbourne.
His teammate Trulli was also ecstatic at the excellent qualifying result achieved by the Renault team.
“A big thank you to the whole team. It's a pleasant surprise to see how well our car performed. It feels great to be on top of the top teams,” said Trulli, who finished fifth in Melbourne.
Schumacher said he faced a gearbox problem in the warm-up lap earlier and in a way, affected his momentum in qualifying.
“I must thank the guys for doing such a good job to get my car ready. There was no time to actually change the settings, we just got it to work.
“I was happy with my lap and third was the best I could do today,” said the 34-year-old German.
Schumacher said he would now concentrate on today's race proper.
“I do not want to take anything away from Renault. They did a very good job but I hope we have the right strategy for the race.”
Williams BMW, who enjoyed a 1-2 finish here last year, will have a hard time repeating their act today.
Juan Pablo Montoya emerged eighth fastest with 1:37.974 while last year's Malaysian GP winner Ralf Schumacher continued to face balance problems with his car.
The younger Schumacher will only start today's race in 17th position after qualifying with a time of 1:38.789.