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Alonso Fastest in First Qualifying Session

March 19, 2005

SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) _ Renault’s Fernando Alonso led qualifying Saturday for the Malaysian Grand Prix after the first of two runs, with teammate Giancarlo Fisichella just behind him in third place.

Alonso, who produced the fastest lap while moving up to third place behind Fisichella in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, had a fast lap Saturday of 1 minute, 32.582 seconds.

He was 0.09 ahead of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, and 0.183 ahead of Fisichella. McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, followed by Ralf Schumacher in the other Toyota.

The Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello _ first and second in the 2004 drivers’ championship _ were way back in 12th and 14th.

The second qualifying session will be held Sunday morning, with times from both runs combined to determine places on the starting grid for the GP later in the day.

``The times are closer than ever here in Sepang _ this makes the qualifying even more interesting for tomorrow,″ Alonso said.

The Spaniard eclipsed the 1:33.074 run that Michael Schumacher used to take the pole position last year.

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