Singapore GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Good night Felipe!
Felipe Massa took pole position for the first Formula 1 night race with a scintillating lap around the streets of Singapore. He ended up six-tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton's McLaren a gap which made it fairly certain that the Ferrari was running with a lighter fuel load than the McLaren. Six-tenths of a second is a big gap in modern F1.
"Everything went perfectly today," he said. "The car was just perfect. It was easy to drive smoothly. I didn't make any mistakes. When you do that it is a great feeling. yesterday I was pretty happy on the hard tyres and I was keen to do the Q3 session on the hards. There was not much difference in terms of grip but the hard tyres were more consistent and at the end of the lap I was quite comfortable."
Lewis Hamilton was pipped at the post, but was happy to be second given that he very nearly lost out in Q2 and might easily have ended up in 11th on the grid.
"I missed out on my first lap," he said. "The car did not stop in T1 and I had to come in because I did not have enough fuel to do an extra lap. And then I had to get back and get everything changed and went out and got stuck in traffic. I was fortunate to get through and I am happy with the result. I think we are in a good position for the race."
Reading between the lines, it sounded like Hamilton was fairly sure that Massa was running a fair bit lighter on fuel. If this was the case there was a chance that Hamilton would be able to get ahead during the fuel stops. But he knew that he would be starting on the dirty side of the race track and that this would be a disadvantage, particularly if third-placed Kimi Raikkonen managed to scramble ahead of Hamilton at the start.
Lewis made it clear that he did not expect there to be ANY overtaking in the race, unless the car ahead was considerably slower than the car behind.
"You will not overtake here if you are as quick as the man in front," he said. "I was behind David Coulthard and I was quite a bit quicker than him, but I got stuck. We just to play it by ear and do the best job we can tomorrow. We may see another Valencia."
This was not good news for the fans. Nor indeed was the suggestion that Massa's lap time might actually have been THAT good and that the difference in fuel load might not be as huge as it looked.
Kimi Raikkonen was his usual dour self.
"It is OK if you look at what has happened in recent races," he said. Earlier in the evening he had gone off during the third session and had lost time because the Ferrari could not engage any gears but the car was good enough to carry him through.
Heikki Kovalainen ended up fifth after brushing a wall in Q3.
"It is so close and competitive nowadays that even a minor mistake can cost me a few places on the grid, despite having a well-balanced and quick car," he said.
As a result the BMW Saubers were fourth and sixth with Robert Kubica ahead (as usual). Kubica reckoned he might have gone quicker but his tyres were a bit short of grip at the start of his last flying lap.
Nick Heidfeld was delighted to be sixth, something which has not been common in recent months.
Sebastian Vettel was seventh and happy with that performance but once again Sebastien Bourdais was in the wars.
"I don't know what happened," he said. "Every time I braked the car went sideways. The car behaved completely differently but we had not changed anything. It was just a bad qualifying." he ended up 17th on the grid, after failing to get through Q1. It did not help that he heard the bad news that his old team boss Paul Newman had died. He drove for the Newman Haas team for five years.
Toyota was pretty happy to get Timo Glock into P8, but Jarno Trulli was only 11th. Both drivers reported that the car was a real handful over the bumps.
"I did my best but the lap time just wasn't there," said Jarno.
It was a good day for Williams, which has been having a depressing time of late. Nico Rosberg was ninth and Kazuki Nakajima 10th.
The car was so good, in fact, that Rosberg was a bit disappointed not to have been further forward.
Nakajima reckoned that his qualifying had been "great" as it was the first time that he had made it into the top 10.
"The team gave me a very good car," he said. "We have been very competitive here."
Honda looked better than usual too with Jenson Button qualifying 12th although Rubens Barrichello was 18th
"I'm pretty happy with our qualifying performance today," Jenson said. "It is certainly a big improvement on the last few races. My final lap was compromised with too much understeer and very low grip in the first sector, but it was reasonable and it's nice to have the pace to compete in Q2 again."
Barrichello complained of traffic, reckoning that Heidfeld had compromised his lap and then Fernando Alonso spun in front of him.
The Red Bulls were embarrassed again with Mark Webber 13th and David Coulthard 14th.
"It was difficult to find a rhythm today," said Webber, "and a bit of traffic cost me vital time in the last sector."
David Coulthard was driving over the limit rather a lot but avoided bashing the wall.
The story down at Renault was not a pretty one. Fernando Alonso had given the impression in practice that the teams was up there and on the pace but he had a spin in Q1 and then the car slowed to a stop on the opening lap of the Q2 session. Fernando was obviously very upset.
"We had a real chance to do something special today," he said. "Perahps not pole position but at least in top four. I will need a miracle with the strategy to be able to make progress on this street circuit."
Well, we'll never know. Certainly Nelson Piquet was no help. He failed to get through Q1.
Down at the back was Force India as usual but this time the failure was more sectacular than normal. Adrian Sutil was 19th and did not know what the problem was with the car. Giancarlo Fisichella had a much wilder day, strange for a man of his experience. At the end of the final practice he went over the big kerbs at the chicane and - surprise, surprise - went flying and ended up burying the front of his car in the barriers. The team rushed to repair the damage and Giancarlo set off in the last few minutes of Q1 with almost no chance of getting through and went off into the wall again, apparently as the result of a puncture.