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Qualifying analysis - McLaren will be hard to beat 04 Aug 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 4 August 2007 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 4 August 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 4 August 2007 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 4 August 2007 (L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing with Dietrich Mateschitz (AUT) CEO and Founder of Red Bull.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 4 August 2007

It was intriguing that Lewis Hamilton could get his super-soft Bridgestone option tyres to last a complete lap in qualifying, and that Fernando Alonso preferred to rely on the soft prime tyre, which he felt was rather more durable for his distinctive driving style.

Hamilton appeared to have the edge all the way through Saturday’s session, until the controversy in the pits prior to the final runs left the Spaniard with the advantage and denied him his last attempt. Regardless of that, McLaren look very strong on a high downforce circuit, and will be hard to beat in the race.

BMW Sauber had their most convincing qualifying outing of the year, and Nick Heidfeld in particular has been in feisty form all weekend. Like many others he was a bit non-plussed about tyre choice for qualifying and ultimately opted for the soft as it was felt by the engineers that the lack of pace the previous day had been down to the behaviour of the super-softs on his F1.07. Team mate Robert Kubica seemed to have lost pace compared to Friday, lining up only seventh. He admitted that he didn’t have a very good day as his car wasn’t accelerating properly due to time lost on each up-shift.

For Ferrari, being out-qualified by BMW Sauber was a blow after Felipe Massa had already failed to make it through Q2. And for the most mundane of reasons. The Brazilian made a mistake in the final corner on his first run, then when he got back to the pits there was a misunderstanding which resulted in the Ferrari not being refuelled. By the time it was pushed back to the pit and replenished, after stalling when he tried to leave, it was too late to make it through into Q3 so he was stranded down in 14th place.

Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen admitted that, in qualifying at least, Ferrari simply weren’t fast enough and had too much understeer. But he was adamant their race pace is better, and that they will be able to fight harder come the race.

Nico Rosberg continued his great pace for Williams, with fifth place, which he admitted was unexpected. The team found the direction early on, and exploited it to the full on a high downforce track that suited the FW29 well. Alex Wurz had too much understeer, and a malfunctioning radio prevented him from communicating his needs to the team. He will start 13th.

The Toyota TF107 has clearly been a very good qualifier for some time, and here in Hungary that is very important. Both Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli had good sessions; the German had no problems at all, but the Italian felt that his car wasn’t quite as strong in Q3 and it had been in Q1 and Q2. He described it as feeling heavy and harder to drive. But sixth and ninth places respectively gave Toyota’s chances of a good points score a significant boost.

At Renault, Giancarlo Fisichella was happy to squeeze through Q2, when he got caught in traffic. His R27 handled well and he heads into the race in optimistic frame of mind. Heikki Kovalainen, however, was very disappointed not to translate the speed he has shown through the weekend into something better than a 12th place start, four behind his team mate. He ran the soft tyres in Q1, the super-softs in Q2, then switched back to the former on which the car had felt more comfortable, for Q3. The problem was, his R27 no longer felt as poised on the prime tyre as it had earlier.

Once again Red Bull had a car in the top 10 courtesy of Mark Webber, and one just outside it, as David Coulthard lined up 11th, one position behind the Australian. Webber said he’d actually preferred to have had Coulthard’s slot, given that he himself will have to start from the dirty side of the grid and, as the final top 10 qualifier, he can’t adjust his fuel load the way that the Scot can. Coulthard, by contrast, thought he was well placed on strategy and was happy to have alleviated the graining problem he’d experienced in the morning.

Anthony Davidson was happy that he got the most from his Super Aguri on his way to 15th place, on a weekend when he has consistently out-run team mate Takuma Sato. His SA07 had good balance, whereas Sato’s didn’t seem to like the prime tyre and he then lost time being called for a lengthy visit to the weighbridge. That meant no run on the option tyre, so he was left down in 19th place.

Over at Toro Rosso, Tonio Liuzzi did the business with a lap of 1m 21.730s to get through Q1, but was struggling to make the super-soft tyres last on his STR02. Getting into Q2 was the prime target, and taking 16th place, as the big gap to P15 precluded anything better, Sebastian Vettel struggled in the sister car, and a mistake in the final sector nixed his chance of getting through. He will start his second Grand Prix in 20th spot.

For Honda, this is another tough weekend. Jenson Button said his RA107 had decent balance and felt consistent, but it just wasn’t quick enough to better 17th place. Rubens Barrichello said his car felt completely different on the two types of tyre, and didn’t better 18th, which left the cars just ahead of the Spykers. This time Sakon Yamamoto was closer to Adrian Sutil. The German was much happier with his F8-VII’s handling after set-up changes since morning practice, and further reversion to Friday’s configuration gave him a nicely balanced car for qualifying. The Japanese driver felt he understood his car much better, but said traffic compromised his ultimate lap time.

David Tremayne