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Qualifying analysis - BMW Sauber eyeing maiden win 16 Mar 2008

Post qualifying parc ferme (L to R): Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren, third; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, pole position; Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1, second.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008 is pushed in to the pits after running out of fuel in qualifying.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW30.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF108.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA108 leads Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, 15 March 2008

Saturday was a day of surprises in Melbourne - no Ferrari on the front row, BMW Sauber looking a genuine threat to polesitters McLaren, and Honda eclipsing Renault and almost making Q3 - despite all the gloomy pre-race predictions that have surrounded the Japanese team. But whose pace was for real and who was running light? And who are the genuine contenders for victory on Sunday afternoon? We take a look at how all 11 teams fared in qualifying at Albert Park…

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 26.714s, P1
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 27.079, P3

Qualifying could scarcely have gone better for McLaren, with Lewis Hamilton running smoothly to the seventh pole position of his career and new boy Heikki Kovalainen taking third place on the grid. Both of them drove neatly, and experienced no problems. Apart from BMW Sauber, that is…

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 26.869s, P2
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 27.236s, P5

It will be interesting to see just what fuel load Robert Kubica is running, because if he reckoned he lost two or three-tenths of a second sliding off the road in Turn 12, he would have been on pole by two-tenths from Hamilton without the error. Nick Heidfeld was quite happy with his afternoon, apart from missing P4 by four-hundredths of a second. The F1.08 pursues aggressive design philosophies compared to the F1.07, so on Sunday it will be fascinating to see how close it really is to McLaren and Ferrari pace in race trim.

Felipe Massa, 1m 27.178s, P4
Kimi Raikkonen, 26.140s, P16

The moment that Kimi Raikkonen’s F2008 slowed at the end of Q1 with an electronic fuel pump problem, Ferrari were on their back foot. The Finn trickled as far as the pit lane, but Article 33.2 of the Sporting Regulations precludes a driver from participating further in qualifying if his car comes to halt on the circuit. That left him 16th, effectively put out of the running for victory, barring a miraculous deliverance. Felipe Massa, meanwhile, met traffic on his final out lap in Q3, and never got the tyre temperature he needed to improve his first-run time. That left him fourth.

Jarno Trulli, 1m 28.527s, P6
Timo Glock, 1m 29.593s, P9 (minus ten grid places)

Is Toyota’s speed for real, or did Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock make the top nine by running really light on fuel? We will find out in the race. The Italian said he was unhappy with his TF108’s set-up and had not been able to get the best out of it on his quickest lap. The German, meanwhile, will lose five grid places as his car required a gearbox replacement on Saturday morning. But for that, he was quite happy - until he lost another five places for impeding Webber. From ninth to 19th. It was a tough break.

Nico Rosberg, 1m 28.687s, P7
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 26.413s, P14

Williams recovered extremely well after their gearbox problems on Friday morning. Nico Rosberg felt he almost got all there was to get out of his FW30 on his way to seventh fastest time, but though he made it through to Q2 this time, Kazuki Nakajima felt he lost out because of the Webber red flag incident.

Red Bull
David Coulthard, 1m 29.041s, P8
Mark Webber, no time, P15

Red Bull had one happy driver, and one angry driver. No prizes for guessing which was which. Coulthard reported that his RB4 was unstable over the bumps when he was really pushing hard, and that there was a big difference between the soft and medium tyres. Webber, meanwhile, suffered a front right brake disc failure approaching Turn Six, and was not amused to be deposited in the gravel. He had been confident of a strong top 10 grid placing, but instead faced a start from 15th position. Like Raikkonen, he should be worth watching in the race.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, no time, P10
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 27.446s, P18

Vettel was quite sure he could have done better than his 10th place on the grid (ninth with Glock’s gearbox penalty applied) but for an undisclosed technical problem that stymied him the moment Q3 began. He did his out lap, but came in immediately and did not go out again. Bourdais, meanwhile, struggled for qualifying pace as he had expected to. He was happy with his pace on the medium tyre, and then his soft rubber run was going well until he made a mistake on the second to last corner. A subsequent effort was frustrated by yellow flags.

Rubens Barrichello, 1m 26.173s, P11
Jenson Button, 1m 26.259s, P13

Given the stories of what a disaster the new RA108 was in its initial testing, the team came close to making Q3 and showed Renaults a clean pair of heels. Barrichello said that he was very happy, and was happier still when he learned of Glock’s penalty. Button was quite cheerful too but admitted that he lost a couple of tenths in Turn Nine and the last corner through understeer.

Fernando Alonso, 1m 26.188s, P12
Nelson Piquet Jr, 1m 28.330s, P21

Alonso was happy with the way his Renault was going on Saturday morning, until a differential failure upset the balance and rendered the R28 almost impossible to drive. It was another brutally disappointing day for rookie Nelson Piquet, who qualified 21st. Ironically, his father had qualified in exactly the same position on his debut with Ensign in Germany in 1978.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 27.707s, P17
Adrian Sutil, 1m 27.859s, P19

Fisichella was philosophical about missing the cut for Q2 by one place, but reported that a yellow flag had hampered him, along with some serious graining on the softer Bridgestone tyres. Sutil battled understeer for the same reason, and that later caught him and sent him into the spin which ended his participation in Q1.

Super Aguri
Takuma Sato, 1m 28.208s, P20
Anthony Davidson, 1m 29.059s, P22

Sato was happy with his efforts to reduce understeer on his SA08A, and to out-qualify the hapless Piquet, but Davidson did not get his car as well suited to the track and took the final place on the grid.

David Tremayne