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Qualifying analysis - red reign or thunderstorm? 23 Mar 2008

Pole sitter Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 in parc ferme.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF108.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Mclaren MP4/23 .
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008

Ferrari and McLaren were poised to slug it out in the Malaysian Grand Prix, after the red cars enjoyed a small but significant advantage in qualifying. Then the McLarens were dropped five places for impeding other drivers. Can they fight back, or will it be BMW Sauber, or even Toyota, challenging the world champions?

The other big unknown is the weather - and how the drivers will cope without traction control if the potential thunderstorms arrive. We take a team-by-team look at how they line up…

Felipe Massa, 1m 35.748s, P1
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 36.230s, P2

The big question is how much fuel the Ferraris were carrying. Massa appears to be a fair bit lighter than Raikkonen, judging by his lap time, but both men were quietly satisfied without being particularly demonstrative about it. The Brazilian was cross with an earlier lap, but put it all together when it mattered. The Finn said he couldn’t get the tyres as hot as he wanted them, having set the weekend’s fastest lap of 1m 31.188s in Q2. Since he was on the front row, however, he wasn’t too worried.

Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 36.613s, P3, starts P8
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 36.709s, P4, starts P9

Kovalainen seemed resigned to the fact that Ferrari had the edge in qualifying, and was satisfied that he had got everything he could out of his MP4-23, but Hamilton complained that, like Raikkonen, he couldn’t get decent tyre temperatures when it really mattered. He also said it was hard to find a gap in the traffic, but it was the McLaren drivers that the stewards wanted to see afterwards, following a complaint by Heidfeld that they had impeded him in the early part of his best lap. It resulted a five-place grid penalty for both men.

Jarno Trulli, 1m 36.711s, P5, starts P3
Timo Glock, 1m 39.656s, P10

Toyota are beginning to look pretty reasonable, though we must await the race to assess exactly what fuel load Trulli had in qualifying fifth. The Italian had a problem-free run and was pleased with his result. Glock was happy to make Q3, but had a difficult time as he struggled again to get the best from the softer rubber. Trulli’s elevation to row two following the McLaren drivers’ penalty could yet allow the Japanese team to spring a surprise.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 36.727s, P6, starts P4
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 36.753s, P7, starts P5

BMW Sauber are the only team to have brought both cars into the top 10 for the 20th consecutive time. But while Kubica was satisfied with sixth and philosophical that his F1.08 didn’t quite have what it took to make the second row, Heidfeld was very disappointed to meet the slowing fast boys on his best lap. The first part of his final lap was great, but before Turn Four he lost time while both McLarens were cruising on the racing line. He believed the difference, two-tenths, cost him third on the grid as he could neither follow the line he wanted, nor brake where he wanted.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 37.009s, P8, starts P6
David Coulthard, 1m 35.408s, P12

The FIA cleared Red Bull to run shortly before qualifying began. Webber was pleasantly surprised by his RB4’s performance and was pleased with the improvements brought by overnight work, whereas Coulthard’s surprise was that he had been faster in the first sector in practice than he was able to go in qualifying. He also reported loss of pace in the middle sector.

Fernando Alonso, 1m 38.450s, P9, starts P7
Nelson Piquet Jnr, 1m 35.562s, P13

Alonso was pleased that Renault achieved their primary goal, which was to get through to Q3, which in turn puts him into a position to go after points in the race. He felt he could have done better, however, as he and Heidfeld were weaving their way through the other fast runners by the time the latter were on their slowdown laps. Piquet’s promise from Friday did not translate into a Q3 run, but he was relieved to have a trouble-free outing this time.

Jenson Button, 1m 35.208s, P11
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 35.622s, P14

Button was really pleased to come so close to Q3 after running the option tyre for his best lap with Honda’s RA108, but Barrichello complained that the time he lost in practice with gear selection difficulties hurt his running time and compromised qualifying.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 35.648s, P15
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 36.677s, P19, starts P18

After the speed he had shown at times in practice, Vettel was disappointed with 15th, though he never believed that Q3 was feasible for Toro Rosso with its fast corners. Then he made a mistake in Turn 14, which cost him a couple of tenths, but it wouldn’t have made much difference. Bourdais, meanwhile ruined his chance of getting through Q1 by spinning in Turn Four on his last attempt when the need to pump the brake pedal caught him out. He also used up his ‘free’ engine change after the team opted for a new Ferrari V8 after morning practice.

Nico Rosberg, 1m 35.670s, P16
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 36.388s, P18, starts P22

After their performance in Melbourne, Williams were disappointed to struggle on to 16th and 18th places on the grid, which became 16th and 22nd after Nakajima’s Australian race penalty was applied.

The Japanese driver, whose former driver father Satoru is here to watch him for the first time, admitted that he had made a mistake which prevented him getting into Q2. Rosberg, who admitted that he came for another podium finish, was very disappointed with his final position, believing that the FW30 simply didn’t like the new asphalt surface because it couldn’t generate sufficient tyre temperature.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 36.240s, P17
Adrian Sutil, 1m 37.101s, P21, starts P20

Fisichella was disappointed to miss Q2 by five-hundredths of a second to Barrichello and to be within a second of the fastest time yet only 17th in the line-up. It is an indication of how tough Formula One is these days. Sutil felt his car was better on the harder rubber, which demonstrated that more set-up work was required.

Super Aguri
Takuma Sato, 1m 37.087s, P20, starts P19
Anthony Davidson, 1m 37.481s, P22, starts P21

While Sato felt that everything came together for his final run in Q1, Davidson was less satisfied with the balance of his Super Aguri SA08.

David Tremayne