Alonso claims Chinese GP pole

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Newly crowned Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso claimed pole position for the final race of the season - the Chinese Grand Prix.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:52 IST
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Qualifying for the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix took place at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday. The Constructors' Championship has yet to be settled heading into the final race of the season, with Renault looking to add the title to Fernando Alonso's Drivers' Championship at the expense of McLaren. Michael Schumacher claimed sixth place on the grid with a lap time of one minute, 35.301. Ferrari's seven-time former champion has endured a difficult season with only one victory to his name in 2005. But the German would guarantee himself third place in the final Drivers' Championship standings if he finishes ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya. Their battle for supremacy will start from the third row of the grid as Montoya went fifth fastest on Saturday. Good performance The Colombian recorded a time of one minute, 35.188 and his performance on race day could be key to McLaren's Contstructors Championship aspirations. Jenson Button maintained his good end of season form to take fourth place on the grid. The Briton has picked up championship points for BAR in each of the last nine Grands Prix - this after failing to finish amongst the points in the first nine races of 2005. Button should be competing for his third podium place of the season after a lap time of one minute, 34.488. Kimi Raikkonen has clinched more victories than any other driver this season following his first place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix. But they will be seven bitter sweet wins if McLaren fail to take the Constructors' Championship. The Finn went third fastest on Saturday with a lap time of one minute, 34.488 seconds and he will chase victory number eight from the second row of the grid. Close fight Standing between Raikkonen and the chequered flag will be the two Renaults. Giancarlo Fisichella's second place finish in Japan saw Renault establish a two-point lead over McLaren at the top of the Constructors' Championship standings. The Italian will be hoping to further assist his team's pursuit of an F1 title sweep from second place on the grid following a time of one minute, 34.401 on Saturday. Fisichella's team-mate Alonso fittingly claimed pole position with a time of one minute, 34.080. The newly crowned world champion was a cut above his rivals and if the Spaniardcan carry Saturday's form into the race then a seventh win of the season could be forthcoming. Alonso may have been surprised by both his own performance and that of his car on Saturday, but Renault's title hopes appear to be in the safe hands. Renault's Managing Director Flavio Briatore was certainly impressed by Alonso'sfastest lap. The Italian's celebrations will be even more emphatic should Alonso and Fisichella hold off Raikkonen and Montoya on Sunday. (AP)