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Qualifying analysis - how costly Massa's mistake? 11 Oct 2008

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Saturday, 11 October 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in qualifying parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Saturday, 11 October 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28 
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Fuji Speedway, Saturday, 11 October 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Saturday, 11 October 2008 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Saturday, 11 October 2008

Saturday’s early morning rain at the Fuji Speedway hampered some teams more than others as it washed away the rubber laid down on Friday, but most of them had their set-ups decided after the first two sessions and had also made their tyre choices, so with a dry track for qualifying it was not as disruptive as it might have been. There was disruption, however, in Ferrari’s recent qualifying form book. Kimi Raikkonen rediscovered his Saturday speed, while Felipe Massa’s deserted him, with mistakes that could prove highly costly to his title chances. We take a team-by-team look at the Japanese Grand Prix grid…

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 25.901s, P11/1m 18.404s, P1
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 26.239s, P15/1m 18.821s, P3

Hamilton said he was reasonably happy with his McLaren in Q1 and Q2, less happy with it on his first run in Q3, and then very happy with his final run which yielded pole position just when his championship campaign needs it most. Kovalainen said he was also content with his final performance in Q3, and that he got the maximum out of his MP4-23. Both drivers are expecting a tough race, however.

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 26.277s, P16/1m 18.644s, P2
Felipe Massa, 1m 25.709s, P7/1m 18.874s, P5

Raikkonen said he was unhappy still with his Ferrari’s performance, but that he liked it better with a race fuel load than without and that he expects to be strong in the race. Massa, meanwhile, fell from third to fifth in the closing minutes, beaten by fractions of a second, and rued the fact that he was the fastest man on the track, but at the wrong moment. He said he made a mistake, but also lost a little grip when he most needed it.

Fernando Alonso, 1m 25.799s, P9/1m 18.852s, P4
Nelson Piquet, 1m 25.415s, P3/1m 18.274s, P12

Alonso regarded fourth place as the payback for all the set-up work he did yesterday, especially as he had a few problems in Q2. He reported that the Renault R28 felt good with fuel aboard in Q3. Piquet, having looked good in the final practice session, faded once again in Q2, admitting to a mistake.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 25.087s, P1/1m 18.979s, P6
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 25.474s, P4/1m 18.835s, P16

After struggling with low grip on Friday, Kubica was unhappy that Saturday morning’s rain washed away all the rubber that had gone down then. Sixth, he felt, was the best he could expect in the circumstances. Heidfeld, meanwhile, rued sticking with the harder Bridgestones on his second run in Q1. He had felt that he could improve on the prime tyre and actually did. But not by a big enough amount to make it through to Q2.

Timo Glock, 1m 25.171s, P2/1m 19.118s, P8
Jarno Trulli, 1m 26.013s, P13/1m 19.026s, P7

Trulli was relieved that some set-up changes at the beginning of qualifying worked out for him at the end, as he pushed team mate Glock down a place to take seventh on the grid. Even so, he lost balance and grip with his race fuel load, which took away some of his cheerfulness. Glock was happy how his runs went even after the morning rain and its effect on grip, but said he struggled with a race fuel load on the softer tyre and was further back than he’d hoped to be.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 25.880s, P10/1m 19.638s, P9
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 25.984s, P12/1m 20.167s, P10

Vettel admitted to making a couple of errors with his Toro Rosso carrying race fuel in Q3, while Bourdais was pleased to be close to his team mate on a track where a lot of the entries to the corners are made under the brakes, a situation where he admits he usually struggles with the back end of the STR3. He felt that some aero changes had helped him there.

Red Bull
David Coulthard, 1m 25.614s, P6/1m 18.187s, P11
Mark Webber, 1m 25.785s, P8/1m 18.354s, P13

Coulthard, by his own admission, had one of his better qualifying sessions to beat team mate Webber, and said each of his laps was tidy. The Australian was less happy, and confessed that he just wasn’t fast enough after over-driving the last sector.

Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 25.563s, P5/1m 18.594s, P14
Nico Rosberg, 1m 26.213s, P14/1m 18.672s, P15

Both drivers admitted that it was a tough qualifying session for them, on a track that just didn’t appear to suit their Williams FW30s. Nakajima complained about traffic, but Rosberg was just resigned to the situation.

Rubens Barrichello, 1m 26.662s, P17/1m 18.882s, P17
Jenson Button, 1m 26.922s, P18/1m 19.100s, P18

As Barrichello pointed out, an improvement of just three-tenths of a second would have put him 10th rather than 17th in Q1. A gamble on adding front wing did not have the desired effect as it led to his tyres graining by the second sector. Button’s struggle for a good balance continued to be fruitless. Too much understeer on his final run in Q1 made the RA108 twitchy.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 27.357s, P19/1m 19.163s, P19
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 27.918s, P20/1m 19.910s, P20

Sutil was pleased with his laps, the last of which he said was right on the edge. Fisichella ran into traffic on the out lap to his final run in Q1 and thus didn’t warm up his tyres sufficiently. As a result he then locked one wheel going into Turn One on his final lap and lost a lot of time.

David Tremayne