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European GP 2008

AUGUST 23, 2008

Qualifying Report - Felipe passes the port

Felipe Massa, European GP 2008
© The Cahier Archive

Felipe Massa took pole position for the European Grand Prix after a weird qualifying session on the streets of the port of the Spanish port of Valencia.

The Brazilian Ferrari driver pipped McLaren's Lewis Hamilton to pole in the final seconds of the session by just two-tenths of a second. It was a confirmation that the two men are the major challengers for this year's World title, as although Kimi Raikkonen is still in the hunt, this is chiefly because of mistakes and bad luck of the others. he has not looked convincing for some time.

"We have a great car," Massa said. "We have shown that in so many races this year. It was a good lap and I think we have a good car for the race. The first sector was just fantastic. I made some small mistakes in sector two and then I had a good sector three. The track was getting better all the time. It was so green because of the big rain shower yesterday. This morning was difficult."

Hamilton seemed less than ecstatic with his second position.

"Felipe 's first sector on his last flying lap destroyed everyone," he said. "I didn't think my first lap was great but the last lap was pretty good. I was happy with it. It is a good starting position for tomorrow.

Normally one would expect to see another Ferrari or another McLaren in third but this time the place went to Robert Kubica, who was happy to be back in contention after a couple of poor races.

"The pace of the car is not as bad as before," he said. But we are still missing a bit to Ferrari and McLaren."

Forth place on the grid went to World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who was nearly half a second off the pace of Massa. This is now a normal situation and must be a source of worry for the Italian team. A couple of poor performances might be acceptable but Raikkonen is becoming a serial offender. Kimi may, of course, be running with a bigger fuel load and one must hope that this is the explanation.

Fifth place was Lewis Hamilton's team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, but he was nearly eight-tenths down on Hamilton, suggesting that perhaps he will be running in the race with a heavier fule load than his team-mate.

The biggest surprise throughout practice was the pace of the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, with Sebastian Vettel being fastest of all in the Q2 session, a truly remarkable result given the difficulty there is these days in making progress up through the F1 grid. One might say it was down to Vettel but Sebastien Bourdais was also there or thereabouts, lining up 10th on the grid.

"It was definitely a surprise to see some of the other teams up front and so quick," said Hamilton, echoing the thoughts of many.

A new race track does provide the teams with a slightly different playing field to normal, but if this was the case one might have expected to see Red Bull Racing more competitive, given that the two teams use the same chassis.

Seeing a Toyota seventh was no real surprise but these days one expects to see Timo Glock ahead of Jarno Trulli. On this occasion Glock was caught out and failed to get through to Q3, ending up 13th on the grid.

Nick Heidfeld had a better qualifying than has been normal in recent weeks and lined up eighth on the grid ahead of Nico Rosberg, who gave the battered Williams team some hope of a good result. With Kazuki Nakajima 11th the team seemed well-placed to pick up points in the race, although the tendency of the two to snag things with their front wings was a bit of a worry on Saturday evening.

It was a disappointing showing for local hero Fernando Alonso, who was only 12th in his Renault and Nelson Piquet was three-tenths off the pace of his team-mate and 16th.

Given the pace of the Toro Rossos, one would have expected more from its sister team Red Bull Racing but there was nothing to write home about, with Mark Webber 14th and DC 17th.

There was big disappointment at Honda too with Jenson Button 16th and Rubens Barrichello 19th, while the arrival of the seamless gearshift at Force India resulted in Giancarlo Fisichella being 18th and Adrian Sutil 20th, which was slightly better than the usual 19th and 20th.