British GP 2008
JULY 5, 2008
Qualifying Report - Heikki's silver bullet?
In recent years Ferrari has led a charmed life in Formula 1. Everyone else has been looking for a means to slay the mystical Ferrari beast. At Silverstone the McLarens looked like silver bullets - and the folk at Ferrari looked rather worried. The Italian team is not used to being trounced, but in qualifying at Silverstone they were trounced. Was it a question of fuel? Or was it a massacre?
The bad news for McLaren was that Lewis Hamilton was not the man on pole. He had made a mistake and gone bouncing over the grass at Priory. That was enough to drop him to fourth on the grid, eight-tenths of a second off the pace of his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn looked strong throughout but in qualifying he was away and gone.
"The car feels just fantastic at the moment," he said. "I was able to steadily improve and I am confident our pace is going to be strong tomorrow."
According to the team, Hamilton's performance "did not reflect the latent pace" of the car, which may have upset members of the Plain English Campaign but pretty much summed up the situation.
Kimi Raikkonen said that the handling of his car was not bad but the wind was changing all the time and that made things difficult whle Felipe Massa's hopes for success were blown in the final pitstop when the Ferrari mechanics had trouble changing the right rear tyre, which meant that he did not get in a second run. This left him ninth. One would expect to see Robert Kubica step into the breach with his BMW, but he too had been tumbled by fate with a problem in the final minutes which meant that he was in the pits as the drama unfolded. He ended up 10th on the grid. The result of all this was that Mark Webber emerged second on the grid, causing some consternation in the Red Bull camp, as the result definitely caught the team by surprise.
"It is a bit of a surprise actually," the Australian said. "We have been pretty strong most of the weekend but we didn't realise how strong. We were surprised."
Fifth place went to Nick Heidfeld who seemed a little happier than he has in recent events. He explained that this was because he has now worked out how to get heat into the tyres.
Fernando Alonso was sixth for Renault and had Nelson Piquet seventh.
"We have done our maximum," Fernando said. One can only hope that after some bizarre strategies in recent times the team has now gone back to not playing to the crowd in qualifying.
Finding Sebastian Vettel in the top 10 was not really a surprise given the performance of the Red Bull chassis.
"We are moving in the right direction with the new car and we have made a step forward," he said. "It's fun fighting in the top 10."
Alas Sebastien Bourdais did not make it that far and ended up 13th on the grid, behind David Coulthard and Timo Glock's Toyota.
Of the rest Williams and Honda were struggling to keep up, with Kazuki Nakajima beating Nico Rosberg for the first time and the pair being split by the two Hondas.