Monaco GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Felipe threads the needle
Felipe Massa took pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix, leading a Ferrari 1-2 during the all-important qualifying session on Saturday. The weather was uncertain on Saturday morning, but the rains held off when the F1 cars took to the track and we ended up with a remarkably incident-free session with Massa snatching pole in the final moments. It was a result which caught the Brazilian by surprise. He is not a great fan of Monaco but this time it all came together.
"I still can't believe it," he said. "I managed to put everything together, but I can't believe I'm on pole."
It was not what had been expected and for Kimi Raikkonen there might have been a pensive moment for he had helped his team-mate by allowing Felipe to see his traces around the track.
"Incredible! I have got pole on a track where I have always struggled. Now I am beginning to like it a bit more," he said. "I managed to do a perfect lap with a great car: this result shows that, if you work hard and with attention to detail, you can do it everywhere. After finishing the lap, nobody said anything to me on the radio and then, unexpectedly, Rob (Smedley) screamed, 'Incredible, you're on pole!'. I was laughing all the way around my IN lap."
Raikkonen was not laughing.
"I would have preferred to be on pole," he said. "There's no point denying it, but two Ferraris ahead of the rest is a great result for the team. We had some doubts about our true potential on this track before the weekend, but this result confirms we have worked well and we have made a step forward compared to last year."
The bad news is that Ferrari has won at Monaco only eight times since 1950 and it is seven years since the last Ferrari victory. McLaren has won 14 times since 1984.
The last time a Ferrari won from pole was way back in 1979.
The bad news for the folks in red is that rain is forecast for Sunday and that means that the race can quickly become a lottery.
In dry conditions, the result has often been determined in qualifying.
Ferrari admitted that last year's performance in Monaco was poor and so the team did a great deal of work to get it right this time. The performance seemed to take McLaren a little by surprise but down in the paddock there was much talk that Ferrari had probably gone for light fuel loads, working on the idea that rain on Sunday would probably negate the disadvantages of a light fuel load. Certainly throughout practice McLaren seemed ahead, even if Heikki Kovalainen snagged a barrier on Saturday morning.
Lewis Hamilton seemed a little subdued after the session.
"Obviously I would have preferred to be on pole," he said, "but I am pleased with how the car felt and our strategy. The team did a solid job, and I didn't have any problems with traffic. My two flying laps in the final part of qualifying were good, but I lost a bit of time in the second sector, because I lacked a bit of traction accelerating out of turn eight, and in the third sector, at the last corners, I did not brake as late as I should. But we have a good strategy, and I am quite confident for the race. Tomorrow anything can happen, particularly with the weather forecast promising rain."
Kovalainen was also disappointed because he reckoned that he was going well.
"I don't know where the small gap to the cars in front comes from," he said. "I did not put a foot wrong in all three sessions."
There was some disappointment at BMW Sauber, where Robert Kubica was his usual fifth, but Nick Heidfeld was a rather shocking 13th.
"That was all I could do today," he said. "On my last flying lap I had Lewis Hamilton in front of me. He did not hold me up, but whenever you have another car in front of you there is some kind of a risk. My tyres cooled down too much and I was very slow in the first sector of my quick lap."
Heidfeld said that his problems were caused by an inability to get heat into his tyres.
It was a promising day for Williams with Nico Rosberg sixth, but the team suffering once again because of Kazuki Nakajima's inexperience. He was 14th.
"I was having trouble hooking everything up on my quick laps," he said. "I need to go away and think about that and see how I can improve. Nico did really well today. He set a really good lap time, so I think I should have been better."
Fernando Alonso was seventh fastest for Renault but Nelson Piquet once again underperformed with 17th on the grid.
Jarno Trulli was eighth who ended up seeing off the challenge of his team-mate Timo Glock, although the German was 11th, which was a decent showing for a new boy.
"The consolation is that I have a free strategy for tomorrow," said Glock.
Between the two Toyotas were the Red Bulls with Mark Webber ninth and David Coulthard 10th. Webber had no real problems but Coulthard had a fairly big shunt when the car turned to the right when he got on the brakes at the chicane. This threw him into the wall. DC was perplexed by the crash. The Hondas were 12th and 15th with Jenson Button ahead and he reckoned he might have gone faster but for Coulthard's crash at the very end of Q2.
"I couldn't improve my time because of the yellow flags," he said.
Barrichello said much the same.
Of the rest, there was little of interest to report. Sebastien Bourdais put the new Toro Rosso 16th while Sebastian Vettel was 18th. The Force Indias were 19th and 20th with Adrian Sutil for once beating Giancarlo Fisichella. The Roman was not happy, complaining about Barrichello holding him up. The stewards did not take any action and Fisichella was wasting his time in any case as he had a five place penalty after changing his gearbox after the morning session.