Turkish GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
FM signals his intention
Felipe Massa has won the last two Turkish Grands Prix for Ferrari, and he has won them both at a canter. The circuit is one that the Brazilian loves and with his third consecutive pole position he seems well-placed to win again.
"Driving this track is nice and fun," he said. "Turn Eight is exceptional, although there are others that are also very tough. The car was great today and I got the most out of it. Tomorrow I will have to watch out for all those who are around me on the grid."
Massa reckoned that the most important thing on Sunday would be to manage the tyres successfully as the temperature and the track conditions changed. This was a theme that was heard up and down the paddock. The choice of tyres was important, but more important was the timing of when one used the different compounds in the race. As overtaking is possible in Turkey it was not a question of containing rivals, as is often the case these days, but rather about making the tyres fit the moment.
There were, of course, questions over the fuel loads as well but there was no real way to tell that. On Saturday evening and one could only guess as to where Ferrari and McLaren really were. In the earlier practice sessions they seemed to be closer than was the case in Bahrain and Spain, but Lewis Hamilton was decidedly downbeat after qualifying, having managed only the third fastest time, despite having used the harder of the two tyre compounds, when everyone else was running the softer tyres. Given the tyres, third looked to be good but Hamilton said that he had made a mistake with his tyre choice and appeared less than his usual chirpy self. Perhaps this was because he had gambled on a low fuel load and had failed to make the most of it. Perhaps the car was just not handling well. It looked decidedly twitchy. The conspiracy theorists suggested that he might be acting disappointed, hoping to lull Ferrari into a false sense of security. It did not look that way, but in F1 you do have to look out for such possibilities.
These were questions that would be answered on Sunday.
It was clear that Kimi Raikkonen was less than ecstatic about his fourth place on the grid.
"I made mistakes on my second lap in Q3 and I have to accept that," he said. "I didn't go into the final corner before the pit straight quite right and lost a lot of speed. We can count on a car that is good over a distance and we will try and make the most of it, trying to get as many points as possible."
Heikki Kovalainen made a good comeback after his nasty accident in Spain and was second fastest at the end of qualifying. He usually runs with more fuel than Hamilton and so being ahead was a good sign for the Finn - and perhaps another reason for Hamilton's apparent disenchantment.
Behind the big four there was a gap back to Robert Kubica of BMW, which was no real surprise, but the fact that Nick Heidfeld was down in ninth place was a little odd. The difference between the two men was just half a second and Heidfeld said that he had made a mistake which had cost him three-tenths. He was not very happy with himself but he reckoned that in the race he could make up places. The men he will need to pass were Jarno Trulli in the Toyota in eighth place, Fernando Alonso in the Renault in seventh and Mark Webber in the Red Bull in sixth.
The top 10 was completed by David Coulthard, a good performance for him given his recent troubles.
It was less interesting a day for Williams and Honda. Nico Rosberg was 11th but Kazuki Nakajima missed out on Q2 by finishing 16th in the first part of the session. With the demise of Super Aguri five rather than six drivers are eliminated after Q1 and Kazuki was one of them.
The two Hondas made it through but Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button could go no further, ending up 12th and 13th, having been four-tenths off the pace needed to get into the Q3 session. Sebastian Vettel and Timo Glock also escaped from Q3 but ended up 14th and 15th.
The biggest disappointment was Nelson Piquet in the Renault. He was 17th on the grid and seven-tenths off the pace of Fernando Alonso in the Q1 session. Nelson did not seem to have any complaints, which is rather worrying.
Sebastien Bourdais in the second Toro Rosso was down in 18th, the two-tenths he was behind Vettel translating into a major difference in grid position, which is a sign of how close the grid has become.
At the back we had the two Force Indias with Giancarlo Fisichella half a second ahead of Adrian Sutil. A grid penalty for Fisichella meant that he would start the race behind his team-mate.