Sunday race preview - can Ferrari stay the course? 16 Sep 2007
Securing the first all-Ferrari front row of the season was a source of great pleasure for the talian team at Spa on Saturday afternoon, as both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa reported themselves satisfied with what they got out of their F2007s when it really mattered.
The Finns lap of 1m 45.994s, set like all of the others on Bridgestones soft option tyre, was just sufficient to beat the Brazilians 1m 46.011s. Massa blamed the difference on time he lost after locking his brakes in the final chicane. Ferraris traditional problem this year has been getting enough heat into their tyres over a single lap, but the length of the lap here helped to minimise that, and with both of them feeling confident as usual about their race pace, both expect to fight for victory.
Fernando Alonso had that spin at Rivage on his penultimate run for McLaren, but recovered very quickly and was able to have a final run in which he ousted team mate Lewis Hamilton for third place,1m 46.091s versus 1m 46.406s. Team boss Ron Dennis mentioned the difference a lap more fuel can make here, so it is possible that Hamilton is running heavier than Alonso.
Despite the speed of the Ferraris, which they expected here, McLaren also feel they have the speed and strategy to vie for the win.
BMW Sauber could feel disappointed not to start fifth, since Robert Kubicas engine problem in the morning meant he incurred a 10 grid-place penalty after his great lap of 1m 46.996s. His misfortune was team mate Nick Heidfelds gain. The German lapped in 1m 47.409s which was good enough for seventh place, which will thus become sixth.
Once again Nico Rosberg did a good job to split the BMWs with 1m 47.334s for Williams, though doubtless he is on a relatively low fuel load whereas Heidfeld is probably running heavier. The younger German was really happy with the way things went, and admitted that he was also a little surprised to be sixth (fifth after Kubicas problem). Having struggled on Friday, the team found good solutions when it counted.
Alex Wurz fared less well in the second FW29, complaining of poor straight-line speed on his way to a lap of 1m 47.394s in Q2 and being out-qualified by Tonio Liuzzi in the Toro Rosso.
There was a degree of satisfaction at Red Bull with Mark Webbers eighth overall, though the Australian as usual did not seem particularly pleased with the result and said he would have liked to get more out of the RB3 than a lap of 1m 47.524s. Team mate David Coulthard, 13th on a 1m 46.800s from Q2, would have been happy with that. As it was, an offline moment when pushing really hard cost him his Q3 chance.
Yet again Jarno Trulli put a Toyota in the top 10, and just as in Monza there was good marque representation up the sharp end with Ferrari, McLaren, BMW Sauber, Williams, Red Bull, Toyota and Renault in the hunt. The talian was quite happy with his 1m 47.798s lap, while team mate Ralf Schumacher was frustrated to miss out again and to finish 12th overall after a lap of 1m 46.618s in Q2.
While Heikki Kovalainen was happy enough with his top 10 slot after lapping relatively gently in 1m 48.505s for 10th overall, 11th fastest Giancarlo Fisichella struggled with his Renault R27 in both morning and afternoon and confessed that he just didnt feel comfortable as it was sliding around a lot. Unable to carry speed through the corners, the talian lapped in 1m 46.603s in Q2.
At one stage this weekend, Honda were quite confident of a decent grid slot, but their best was Jenson Buttons 14th with a lap of 1m 46.955s in Q2. The RA107 was just not suited to Spa aerodynamically, and resultant understeer hampered both cars. Rubens Barrichello was very unhappy with 18th overall, on 1m 47.954s set in Q1.
Tonio Liuzzis performance in getting through to Q2 and out-qualifying Wurz with a lap of 1m 47.115s, was a sound effort as the talian was feeling very unwell after being sick. He just made it through Q1 at team-mate Sebastian Vettels expense, the young German lapping his STR02 in 1m 47.581s to beat Barrichello.
The Super Aguris and Spykers were quite evenly matched here. The formers Takuma Sato won their battle with 19th place and 1m 47.908s, followed by the latters Adrian Sutil on 1m 48.044s. Anthony Davidson did 1m 48.199s, and Sakon Yamamoto 1m 49.577s.
Sato was happier with his SA07s set-up after a night of engineering head-scratching, but Davidson suffered graining rear tyres and was still unhappy. Yamamoto lost time with a brake problem in the morning, then had to bed new pads in with the medium tyres when Q1 began. Then he lost time in a mandatory weight check, and only managed one run on the softer rubber.
As far as victory is concerned, the odds appear to favour Ferrari, but the McLarens are believed to be running a little heavier, so the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion.