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Qualifying analysis - McLaren well poised to fight back 11 May 2008

The cars of Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 and Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/23  in parc ferme after qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 10 May 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari in parc ferme after qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 10 May 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 10 May 2008 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team celebrates his record breaking 257th Grands Prix with Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing and Jenson Button (GBR) Honda.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 10 May 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault and team mate Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 10 May 2008

As Ferrari’s Felipe Massa shoots for a hat-trick of wins at Istanbul Park, McLaren are better placed to frustrate him than they have been since Melbourne, with Heikki Kovalainen second and Lewis Hamilton third on the grid for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix.

But world champion Kimi Raikkonen isn’t far behind in fourth and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica is there as usual within potential striking distance. On a circuit where overtaking is possible, we should be in for a great race…

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 27.617s, P1
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 27.936s, P4

Massa was very happy with his first run in Q3, and just managed to improve it sufficiently in the second to stave off Kovalainen for pole position. It was his third in succession here, and on Sunday he shoots for a hat-trick in the race on a circuit he loves. Raikkonen was quickest in Q2, but admitted that he made mistakes on his second run in Q3 which cost him dearly. Like Kovalainen, he starts from the dirty side of the grid.

McLaren
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 27.808s, P2
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 27.923s, P3

Kovalainen made the most of Bridgestone’s medium compound tyres in Q3 and went fast enough to clinch his first front-row grid slot and put Massa under pressure for the pole. Hamilton said he was really pleased with his MP4-23 in Q1, on the harder tyre, but felt that he struggled on the medium in Q2. He thus switched back to the harder rubber for Q3 and later admitted that it had been a mistake.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 28.390s, P5
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 28.882s, P9

Having finished second to Raikkonen in Q2, Kubica admitted that he had expected a little more than fifth overall in Q3, but once it had been refuelled his F1.08 lost its balance a little and became more difficult to drive as he picked up a lot of understeer. Heidfeld said he was disappointed with ninth on his 31st birthday, but that the car felt better than it had in practice. His best lap was pretty good, until he made an error in the final sector which cost him three-tenths and a couple of grid places.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 28.417s, P6
David Coulthard, 1m 29.959s, P10

At last Red Bull got both their cars into the top 10, with Webber sixth and Coulthard 10th. The progress continues. The Australian believed he can score good points from sixth, even starting on the dirty side of the grid, while the Scot used all his medium tyres to get into Q3 and only had the harder rubber to run at the end. He did just one run to save fuel, and said that his RB4 was ‘very heavy’.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 28.422s, P7
Nelson Piquet, 1m 27.568s, P17

Once again Alonso made it easily into Q3 and said that seventh on the grid was more or less what he had expected, though he might have done a little better. Piquet did not look good as he failed to escape Q1 without being able to offer any particular reason why.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 28.836s, P8
Timo Glock, 1m 27.806s, P15

Yet again Trulli put his TF108 in the top 10 quite comfortably, and starts eighth, but he was never fully satisfied with the set-up that he achieved and had trouble with both understeer and oversteer at times. Glock by contrast said he was really happy with his car, but his efforts were stymied by a front wheel problem which manifested itself in Q2 as he braked for Turn Eight.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 27.012s, P11
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 27.547s, P16

Rosberg thought he had a good shot at getting through to Q3, but ultimately missed out by one place as he said there were a couple of set-up points that the team didn’t fully optimise. Once again, Nakajima looked good right up until qualifying, when he failed to get it together sufficiently to progress beyond Q1.

Honda
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 27.219s, P12
Jenson Button, 1m 27.219s, P13

Barrichello starts his record-breaking 257th race in 12th place, and said that Honda’s main problem is not the tyres or grip levels but basic balance. He struggled to make his tyres last well beyond the first and second sectors of the lap. Button said he had to be satisfied with 13th after struggling all session to get the RA108 working its tyres properly and couldn’t make it work well on the medium tyres in Q2.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 27.412s, P14
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 27.621s, P18

After a couple of races fighting for decent handling balance, Vettel felt he was finally making some progress as he lines up 14th for the STR2B’s final appearance. Bourdais blamed the Force India duo for his 18th best time, claiming that Sutil blocked him in Turn Three on his first Q1 run, and Fisichella in Turn Eight on the second.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 27.807s, P19, starts P20
Adrian Sutil, 1m 28.325s, P20, starts P19

Fisichella was pretty happy with the balance of his VJM01, but of course dropped a place from 19th because of his indiscretion exiting the pits against the red light on Friday morning. Sutil said his car was much improved since final practice, but couldn’t get the best out of his tyres in his final Q1 run.

David Tremayne