Saturday, July 19, 2008

Qualifying: Hamilton bags Hockenheim pole

Re-published from Planet F1
Saturday 19th July 2008

Lewis Hamilton will start the German GP from pole position after beating Felipe Massa to the coveted grid slot in Saturday's qualifying.

The McLaren driver, who led the way in both practice sessions on Friday, carried his pace through to qualifying on Saturday where he clocked a 1:15.666 to edge Massa by two tenths.

Third place on the grid went to Heikki Kovalainen as the McLaren driver got within half a second of his team-mate while a last-gasp effort from Jarno Trulli put him P4.

Fernando Alonso and an off-form Kimi Raikkonen complete the top six.

Qualifying 1
There was a small threat of rain in the build up to qualifying, but when the pitlane exit light turned to green, the clouds had blown over. The ambient temperature was at 23C with the track at 32C.

Local favourites Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel were out on track first and Vettel set P1 at 1:17.030. Kimi Raikkonen was out early and the World Champion looked as though he was still trying to find a balance for his car. He took P1 from Vettel but his lap was only a 1:16.810.

With almost everyone on the harder Bridgestone tyre, many drivers chose to put in two laps, and Rosberg came round again with a 1:16.686, Mark Webber's first lap got him P1 at 1:16.395 which he then lost to Kimi Raikkonen's second hot lap of 1:16.352. Webbo then reclaimed P1 with his second lap at 1:16.058.

Felipe Mass needed just one lap to get his Ferrari onto P1, a 1:15.884, however Raikkonen wasn't done with, and lowered P1 to 1:15.627 on his third lap. Massa was considerably quicker on his second lap - a 1:15.255.

Lewis Hamilton's onboard camera showed him missing the apex at the hairpin by a country mile, but such is the McLaren driver's confidence through the stadium section that he still took P1 with a 1:15.218.

Going into the final three minutes, the danger positions were: 12.Nakajima, 13.Rosberg, 14.Barrichello, 15.Bourdais, 16.Sutil, 17.Trulli, 18.Coulthard, 19.Fisichella, 20.Piquet

Before the back of the grid sorted itself out Felipe Massa went out one final time to set P1 at 1:14.921.

With less than two seconds between the front and the back of the grid, a tenth of a second could be the difference between several places. As the cars crossed the line Coulthard got himself out of jail by going 8th. Jarno Trulli, who was surprisingly far down, jumped up to 5th, Rosberg went 7th, Glock claimed 6th, Nakajima improved to 14th which Jenson Button immediately took off him.

Alonso moved up to 10th, Nick Heidfeld made himself safe in 7th, but Nelson Piquet Junior trailed home in 17th complaining that Sebastian Vettel had got in the way of his final lap. Piquet Junior was only 0.2 slower than team-mate Fernando Alonso who made it through to Q2.

So out went:
16. Nakakima

Qualifying 2
The major surprise of Q2 was the fact that both Ferraris took to the track first. Having put in a late fast lap in Q1, the set-up on Felipe Massa's Ferrari didn't look like it needed attention. Both opted for the softer tyre.

Raikkonen set P1 at 1:14.949, Felipe Massa reduced it to 1:14.747 and soon Lewis Hamilton had claimed it with a 1:14.603 with Heikki Kovalainen back in P4.

The two BMWs were last out on track and though Robert Kubica took P7, Nick Heidfeld could only manage P10 (disproving the theory that he'd cracked his qualifying malaise).

Going into the final three minutes the danger positions were: 7.Kubica, 8.Webber, 9.Glock, 10.Heidfeld, 11.Coulthard, 12.Rosberg, 13.Vettel, 14.Bourdais, 15.Button.

Sebastien Bourdais ruined his final attempt by going straight on at the hairpin looking almost as though he was trying to explore the old part of the circuit and the Jim Clark memorial.

His Toro Rosso team-mate Sebastian Vettel, claimed P8, Robert Kubica leapt to P5, Nico Rosberg couldn't improve, David Coulthard took 8th place, Button could only manage P14, while Fernando Alonso put in amazing lap to move to P4.

Nick Heidfeld was the big loser, locking his brakes at the hairpin and trashing his lap. So as the dust cleared it was:

Qualifying 3
Jarno Trulli was first out on track with nine minutes left to go and set Provisional Pole at 1:17.126.

Continuing the trend, Kimi Raikkonen came out early again and put in a dreadful lap, running wide at the exit of Turns 1 and 2, his Ferrari looking very undrivable. Nevertheless he was quick enough to take P1 with a 1:17.101.

This was instantly put into perspective by Felipe Massa who followed him over the line with a 1:16.323. Heikki Kovalainen ruined his first shot at pole with a rallycross moment onto the grass at the end of the lap at the exit of the final turn.

Because the marshals put the yellow flags out for what was a momentary off-track excursion for Heikki, Lewis Hamilton lifted in the turn (fearing he might be penalised by race stewards, such is the lack of confidence in race officiation these days) and could only manage P2.

Meanwhile Fernando slotted his Renault into an amazing P2 - so after the first runs it was Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, Kubica, Raikkonen, Trulli, Webber, Vettel, Coulthard, Kovalainen.

Raikkonen led them out on the second round of hot laps and though he improved, he could only manage P2. Felipe Massa improved to 1:15.859 and looked to have nailed pole position, Kovalainen kept his McLaren sufficiently on the tarmac enough to take P2 and then Lewis Hamilton finished off an amazing lap in style with a startling 1:15.666 - a whole second quicker than his first lap!

But the action hadn't finished as Alonso crossed the line in P4 and Jarno Trulli equalled his best position of the year taking Alonso's P4 and relegating Raikkonen to P6 and the slow side of the grid.

It had been the pole position Lewis Hamilton should have scored a race earlier, but he will welcome a start from the clean side of the grid at a circuit where it can get very hairy into Turns 1 and 2. Robert Kubica back in P7 will be looking to nick inside of World Championship rival Kimi Raikkonen on the opening tour, while Felipe Massa will be hoping that it turns hot (not rainy) on Sunday afternoon.


01 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:15.666
02 F. Massa Ferrari 1:15.859
03 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:16.143
04 J. Trulli Toyota 1:16.191
05 F. Alonso Renault 1:16.385
06 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:16.389
07 R. Kubica BMW 1:16.521
08 M. Webber Red Bull 1:17.014
09 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.244
10 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:17.503
11 T. Glock Toyota 1:15.508
12 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:15.581
13 N. Rosberg Williams 1:15.633
14 J. Button Honda 1:15.701
15 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:15.858
16 K. Nakajima Williams 1:16.083
17 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:16.189
18 R. Barrichello Honda 1:16.246
19 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:16.657
20 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:16.963

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