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Sunday race preview - Ferrari eye McLaren pace 09 Sep 2007

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 leads Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 8 September 2007 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams and Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 8 September 2007 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 8 September 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 8 September 2007 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 8 September 2007

Ferrari came to Monza expecting a tough time in qualifying, and they got it in spades from McLaren. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton ran away and hid with respective laps of 1m 21.997s and 1m 22.034s, as Felipe Massa managed 1m 22.549s and Kimi Raikkonen 1m 23.183s.

Alonso was very happy with his MP4-22 and had little to offer in the way of complaint, but Hamilton said his single-lap balance left something to be desired but that he expects his car to be fine over longer distances.

Though Ferrari are always better over the long haul, Massa was a little detuned in third place and was clearly impressed with the McLarens’ speed. Raikkonen, meanwhile, who will start fifth, was sore after his morning shunt, which he rated amongst his top five in the hurting stakes. He has a very stiff neck, but could count himself lucky not to have sustained further damage. As it was, his race engine was transferred to the T-car, which was not fully set-up to his liking.

The question now is what strategy each diver was using fuel-wise. The fact that McLaren remain so confident despite the other adversities they face suggests that they will be very strong in the race, but don’t write the red cars off.

BMW Sauber felt that Nick Heidfeld lost two-tenths on his best lap, 1m 23.174s, but nothing that could have made a difference to his grid place. Robert Kubica made a mistake on his best lap of 1m 23.446s, which was good enough for sixth. This is another team with an air of quiet confidence of their chance of a solid result.

Renault have Heikki Kovalainen in seventh place on 1m 24.102s, and the Finn said he was relieved to get through from Q2 after losing time when Rubens Barrichello went off the road and came back on in front of him. The Brazilian’s manoeuvre also hurt Giancarlo Fisichella, who did not make it through and will start 15th on 1m 23.325s. Renault’s sudden spurt was a bit of a surprise for Williams, who have looked strong all weekend thanks to Nico Rosberg. The German was really happy with the way things went, nevertheless, and lapped in 1m 24.382s in Q3, but team mate Alex Wurz lost time in Q2 locking his front wheels in the first chicane and will start only 13th on 1m 23.209s.

Toyota and Honda each helped to make it a fascinating top 10, which contains seven marques. Neither Jarno Trulli nor Ralf Schumacher had any particular problems, but where the €talian made it through Q1 and eventually qualified ninth on 1m 24.555s, the German missed the cut and starts 18th on 1m 23.787s. Jenson Button was very pleased to plant his Honda 10th on the grid with 1m 25.165s, especially as it took him time to get to grips with the car during the three sessions. Revised front and rear suspension, allied to the low-downforce aero package, helped, however, and he regarded the result as a significant step forward for the team. Barrichello, however, besides making himself unpopular with Renault, blamed worn tyres for his off-track moment in the second Lesmo. He starts 12th.

At Red Bull Mark Webber was frustrated to miss the top 10 with his 1m 23.166s lap, but 11th was better than David Coulthard’s 20th. The Scot lapped in 1m 24.019s but then lost it under braking for the first chicane in Q1 and spun to a standstill before climbing out and bowing to the crowd. He blamed low oil pressure in the gearbox which locked the rear axle as he was changing down through the gears.

Anthony Davidson once again had the upper hand over Takuma Sato at Super Aguri, lapping in 1m 23.274s for 14th compared to his team mate’s 1m 23.749s which left him 17th. The Englishman was pleased to have been able to work though to a decent set-up on his SA07, but the Japanese driver said he lost time over the bump in the second chicane.

Sebastian Vettel got the upper hand at Toro Rosso for the first time in his three race outings, lapping in 1m 23.351s for 16th after making it through Q1. Team mate Tonio Liuzzi lost a couple of tenths with an engine on its second race, and later blamed Wurz for impeding him in the Parabolica on his best lap. He will start 19th after posting 1m 23.886s.

Spyker were still at the back with their updated car, with Adrian Sutil and Sakon Yamamoto 21st and 22nd on 1m 24.699s and 1m 25.084s. The team were disappointed, having expected more, but, particularly, Yamamoto spun and broke his front wing.

David Tremayne