Sunday, November 2, 2008

Qualy: Massa sticks his Ferrari on pole

Saturday 1st November 2008

Felipe Massa boosted his chances of winning the World title by qualifying in pole position for Sunday's title showdown in Brazil.

The Ferrari driver enters the final race of the season seven points behind Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, which means he has to finish first or second to stand any chance of winning the World title.

And the Brazilian boosted his chances of doing that on Saturday when he crossed the line with a 1:12.368 to beat Jarno Trulli and Kimi Raikkonen to pole position.

As for Hamilton he qualified P4, which won't be too much of a concern for McLaren as he only needs to finish fifth on Sunday to clinch his first title.

Qualifying 1With sunshine at Interlagos and no sign of the forecast showers, the entire session would be run in dry conditions, starting with an ambient of 22C and the track at 39C.

Nelson Piquet set the benchmark P1 time in front of his home crowd, a 1:13.308. It was bettered by Timo Glock with a 1:13.023 and then Jarno Trulli showed just which Toyota driver has the measure of the anticlockwise track with a 1:12.226.

Felipe Massa set a fairly poor (by his standards) lap to go P3. His championship rival, Lewis Hamilton was able to take P1 with a 1:12.213, while Kimi Raikkonen could only go P4 with both Ferraris understeering and using up 9 laps between them

Timo Glock spun at Turn 2 with eight minutes left, at which point it was a very unfamiliar line-up at the front. 1.Hamilton, 2.Trulli, 3.Piquet, 4.Kovalainen, 5.Massa, 6.Vettel.
With four minutes left of the session the danger zone consisted of: 12.Coulthard, 13.Nakajima, 14.Button, 15.Kubica, 16.Webber, 17.Rosberg, 18.Fisichella, 19.Bourdais, 20.Sutil

Despite looking relatively secure, both Ferraris went out again before the last minute rush and Felipe Massa was able to claim P1 with a 1:11.830, team-mate Raikkonen slotting into P2.

As the drivers crossed the line Robert Kubica found a lot of speed to take P7, David Coulthard took P12, Sebastien Bourdais jumped to P10 and then Mark Webber inched in front of him in P10. Nick Heidfeld got through to P8. Jenson Button failed yet again and stayed P16 while Alonso - who was already safe - jumped to P4.

As the dust settled, the two old guys in the field - Barrichello and Coulthard - had managed to scrape through in 14th and 15th place.

Out went : 16.Nakajima17.Button>br>18.Rosberg19.Fisichella20.Sutil

No great surprises, but Williams would have been expecting to get at least one of their cars through to Q2.

Qualifying 2The Toyotas were out early in the session, but this time Timo Glock was a lot closer to team-mate Jarno Trulli on the first runs. Glock setting P1 at 1:12.331 and Trulli lowering it to 1:12.107. With Interlagos being one of the shortest F1 tracks, the time differences between the front and the back were very small.

Raikkonen edged P1 down to 1:11.950, Massa took a sliver off to make it 1:11.875 and Lewis Hamilton claimed P1 by even less at 1:11.856.

Heikki Kovalainen set purple first and third sectors on his first run, but his middle sector was disappointing. With four minutes left of the session he went out again and claimed P1 with a 1:11.768.

The danger zone going into the last four minutes was: 8.Alonso, 9.Trulli, 10.Piquet, 11.Bourdais, 12.Kubica, 13.Webber, 14.Coulthard, 15.Barrichello.

With the difference between Hamilton, now in P2 with a 1:11.856 and Piquet down in P10 with a 1:12.137, McLaren took no chances and sent Lewis out again. Massa in P3, stayed in his garage.
In the closing stages of the session, though, few improved. Though Trulli managed to beat Nelson Piquet's P10 time by 0.030 of a second and Sebastian Vettel made a quantum leap forward to P2.

So out went:11.Piquet12.Webber13.Kubica14.Coulthard15.Barrichello.

Robert Kubica had been struggling with graining tyres on his BMW and both Red Bulls failed to get any grip in the twisty middle sector. David Coulthard bowed out of F1 qualifying and Rubens may indeed have had his final race - though his late season form in comparison to Jenson Button has been very good.

Qualifying 3The man who spends his life running longest on the first stint, Timo Glock, looked to be doing it again at Interlagos as he set a sluggish, seemingly fuel-laden 1:14.311 on his first hot lap. The resurgent Sebastian Vettel slotted ahead of him with 1:13.155.

Felipe Massa's first hot lap delighted the home crowd by setting P1 at 1:12.453. The warning sign for Lewis Hamilton, though, came when he set the fastest time in Sector 3...on his outlap, a 17.2. His lap was only good enough for P6 after the first runs.

The grid order after the first runs was: 1.Massa, 2.Trulli, 3.Raikkonen, 4.Kovalainen, 5.Vettel, 6.Hamilton, 7.Alonso, 8.Heidfeld.

Considering Jarno Trulli had only just scraped into the Top 10 at the last second of Q2, then it was widely assumed he had bought a good grid position with low fuel.

Out they came for their second attempts and this time both Felipe and Lewis set very slow outlaps. Massa crossed the line in 1:12.368 which was not a massive improvement on his first lap time. Through the course of the season we've seen cars improve by 0.3-0.5 with three laps less fuel on board. Could Lewis grab pole?

No. In fact despite a far better lap than his previous attempt he was half a second off Massa and looked to have two to three laps more fuel on board. Into this huge gap jumped first Kimi Raikkonen in P2 and then Jarno Trulli, Toyota's first front row start since Japan in 2005. Fernando Alonso leapfrogged Vettel for P5, before Heikki Kovalainen took it off him.

Though Lewis Hamilton can't guarantee himself a trouble free first corner, the fact that he is behind the Ferraris and can see what they're doing is no bad thing for the Brit. He has team-mate Kovalainen behind him and could even afford to slip to 6th on the opening lap tomorrow to keep that necessary 5th place (his team-mate being obliged to move over).

Felipe Massa needed pole and got it. But only when the fuel strategies are played out tomorrow will we know if it was a wise investment to be so far ahead.

With an 80% chance of rain and showers in the race on Sunday it could be a master stroke to steer clear of the trouble. If there's a prolonged Safety Car period in the opening 15 laps of the race and the field doesn't spread it could be a disaster. But for now Felipe's done all he can.

01 F. Massa Ferrari 1:12.368
02 J. Trulli Toyota 1:12.737
03 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:12.825
04 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:12.830
05 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:12.917
06 F. Alonso Renault 1:12.967
07 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:13.082
08 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:13.297
09 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:14.105
10 T. Glock Toyota 1:14.230
11 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:12.137
12 M. Webber Red Bull 1:12.289
13 R. Kubica BMW 1:12.300
14 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:12.717
15 R. Barrichello Honda 1:13.139
16 K. Nakajima Williams 1:12.800
17 J. Button Honda 1:12.810
18 N. Rosberg Williams 1:13.002
19 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:13.426
20 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:13.508

Source : Planet F1

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