No damper for Massa

Felipe Massa, Turkish GP 2006

Felipe Massa, Turkish GP 2006 

 © The Cahier Archive

The outstanding thing about the qualifying session in Istanbul on Saturday was Michael Schumacher's time in the Q2 session when he lapped the Turkish circuit at an astonishing 1m25.250s. It was a full 1.0sec faster than Jenson Button's Honda ansd 1.2secs faster than his team mate Felipe Massa. A few minutes later in the qualifying session Michael made two mistakes at the first corner on consecutive laps. Aborting the first lap, he drove carefully around and started again but did the same thing again and by the end of the lap was three-tenths down on Felipe Massa. This did not make much sense. Yes. Michael had made a mistake but the difference was not that great, so what had happened to Michael's advantage? The obvious answer was the fuel load. But was there much point in Michael having a huge fuel load?

Obviously there was moire to all this than meets the eye.

"There are sveral reasons," said Michael. "Maybe we are heavier. Maybe I did not have as good a lap as I could have done. We will find out tomorrow. We will see when the cars stop."

The question was a good one because the session made little sense when one looked at the numbers.

In the first Q1 session the two Ferraris recorded almost identical times - with Massa the faster of the two. In the second session Michael had a monstrous advantage. And then in the third session Massa managed to lap at almost exactly the same pace as he had in Q2, despite fuel having been added. And Michael was three-tenths behind him, having made a mistake that cost only two-tenths. So that would seem to suggest that Massa was running lighter than Michael. But was he?

Or was Michael playing with some other tactic? What had happened to that huge advantage from Q2? Could it be that Michael was running light and Felipe heavy in order to confuse the other teams and get them planning other strategies when in fact Massa's role on Sunday would be as a blocker in the early laps with Michael running away at speed to do an early stop while far enough ahead to stay in the lead.

We will find out tomorrow.

If the journalists are asking such questions one can assume that the rival teams are equally confused.

Michael played the role of looking disappointed but he didn't really look that upset and said "to be honest", which is never a good sign.

Oddly enough, Fernando Alonso seemed very upbeat about his third fastest time and said that with Giancarlo Fisichella fourth fastest Renault had done "the maximum we can".

"I think that Ferrari and the Bridgestone tyres were extremely quick for one lap," he said. "They were too strong for us today but we believe more for the race. Tomorrow we have a chance to do it."

But he did make the point that the result of the race would be down to strategy - and that was what made Michael's adventures all the more interesting.

Of the rest there was little to report Ralf Schumacher was fifth but running light as he has to deal with a 10-place drop on the grid afteran engine change in the course of Friday. That means that Nick Heidfeld will start fifth in his BMW while his team mate Robert Kubica will be eighth on the grid. Jenson Button will line up sixth but his pace in the early part of the weekend would suggest that the car is probably carrying a decent amount of fuel and so he could be a contender for a podium finish, depending on the strategies of those ahead. Kimi Raikkonen is also probably on a heavier fuel load as the best he could do was eighth in the session (and thus seventh of the grid).

The top 10 was rounded off by Mark Webber, the Australian was 2.5secs off the pace of Massa and that indicated that the Williams will go into the race with a big tank of gas.

Of those who failed to make it into the final session Christian Klien was the man who moved to 10th in his Red Bull. This was a good effort but evidence perhaps that his straetgy is rather different to that of David Coulthard who ended up 17th, having failed to make it through Q3.

There was disappointment in Q2 for Pedro de la Rosa, Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello, all of whom failed to get into the top 10 run-off. Nico Rosberg was also a long way from the pace of Mark Webber and ended up 15th overall (and thus 14th on the grid) while Christijan Albers did a good job with his Midland and will start 16th, having made it out of the Q1 session.

Out of action after the first session was Coulthard, the two Toro Rossos (Scott Speed outdoing Tonio Liuzzi for once), Tiago Monteiro in the second Midland and the two Super Aguris with Sakon Yamamoto ahead of Takuma Sato.