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Qualifying analysis - can Ferrari race pace halt Hamilton? 18 Oct 2008

The cars of Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 and Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008 in parc ferme after qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 October 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 October 2008 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF108.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 October 2008 Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday, 17 October 2008 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 October 2008

Lewis Hamilton made a mess of his first run in Q3 when he got his McLaren into a big slide in Turn Eight, but thereafter the world championship leader got back into the groove to take yet another pole position for what is arguably the most important race of his Formula One career. Once again, the Ferraris were his principal opposition, but the red cars again failed to make such efficient use of their tyres over single-lap runs. In general, the high track temperature led to a significant loss of overall grip, which troubled all of the teams…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 36.135s, P2/1m 36.303s, P1
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 36.324s, P4/1m 36.930s, P5

Hamilton lost six-tenths of a second with the oversteer he experienced in Turn Eight on his first run, but he made sure of pole position on his second with a lap he described as ‘almost perfect’. Kovalainen was the fastest after the first runs, but a mistake on his second run left him to be content with fifth fastest time.

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 36.901s, P13/1m 36.645s, P2
Felipe Massa, 1m 36.842s, P12/1m 36.889s, P3

Neither of the Ferrari drivers looked particularly happy after qualifying, even though their F2008s found a lot of speed in relation to the McLarens. The problem was what it has been all too often this season, getting sufficient heat into the Bridgestone tyres over a single lap. Second and third places on the grid were hardly a handicap, however, and as Fuji showed the red cars will have stronger race pace.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 36.996s, P16/1m 36.927s, P4
Nelson Piquet, 1m 36.789s, P10/1m 35.722s, P11, will start P10

Alonso was very happy with his qualifying session, as yet again he put himself and Renault in contention for a third victory with fourth fastest time. Unlike many other drivers, he felt that changes after practice had improved the R28 and made it easier to drive. Piquet looked strong in the morning, but missed out on Q3 by mere thousandths. He starts tenth, however, after Webber’s engine penalty.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 36.150s, P3/1m 35.814s, P12, will start P11
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 36.061s, P1/1m 37.201s, P7, will start P9

Heidfeld said that seventh overall was the best he could hope for, but Kubica was very unhappy with 12th place just when he needed to keep his slim world championship hope alive with a strong run. The F1.08 had been reasonable in morning practice, but changes to the set-up hurt the balance in qualifying. Worse still he knows he is in for a tough race as the set-up can’t be changed beforehand. After qualifying, Heidfeld was hit with a three-place grid penalty for impeding Coulthard.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 36.396s, P5/1m 37.934s, P9, will start P7
Timo Glock, 1m 37.053s, P17/1m 35.987s, P13, will start P12

Trulli said he was troubled by the relative lack of grip in qualifying, which made it a tough session, while Glock admitted he just didn’t get the most out of the softer Bridgestone tyre when it mattered.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 36.902s, P14/1m 37.685s, P8, will start P6
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 36.642s, P7/1m 38.885s, P10, will start P8

Vettel pulled a good lap out of the bag to qualify eighth, and starts sixth thanks to Webber and Heidfeld’s penalties. The German said he was happy with changes to the set-up of his car after practice. Bourdais had his team mate tucked up most of the way, but ran out of option tyres at the end and could not stay with him when it mattered. He starts eighth.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 37.566s, P18/1m 37.083s, P6, will start P16
David Coulthard, 1m 36.712s, P8/1m 36.731s, P16, will start P15

Webber got through nicely to Q3 and set the sixth fastest time, but his morning engine failure doomed him to a 16th place start. Ironically, that elevated team mate Coulthard once place, the Scot having been first man to miss out on passage into Q2. The Scot was very critical of Heidfeld, whom he claimed overtook him when the German had ended his quick lap and he himself was just about to go into his.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 36.427s, P6/1m 36.210s, P15, will start P14
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 36.713s, P9/1m 36.863s, P17

Both Rosberg and Nakajima were dispirited with their FW30’s performance. Consistent pace proved impossible to come by, as the high-speed corners in sector two continually proved to be problematic.

Honda
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 36.839s, P11/1m 36.079s, P14, will start P13
Jenson Button, 1m 36.958s, P15/1m 37.053s, P18

Barrichello was very pleased with the lap that got him into Q2, and didn’t think he could have done any better with the RA108. Button had been happy with his car’s balance in the morning, but said it went awry as the temperature went up in the afternoon.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 37.648s, P19/1m 37.730s, P19
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 37.964s, P20/1m 37.739s, P20

Both drivers reported a marked loss of grip in qualifying, when their VJM01s slid around and oversteered badly under braking.

David Tremayne