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Qualifying analysis - Kovalainen on the brink? 05 Jul 2008

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN), McLaren, McLaren Mercedes MP4-23, British Grand Prix 2008, Silverstone, Friday, 4 July 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 5 July 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 5 July 2008 Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 5 July 2008 Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 5 July 2008

After playing second fiddle to McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton for much of 2008, Heikki Kovalainen has his best chance yet of a maiden Formula One win on Sunday, following his spectacular qualifying performance at Silverstone.

However, with changeable weather predicted, the grid for the British Grand Prix may yet prove academic. After three sessions of qualifying in which rain spots and heavy crosswinds played significant roles, this is how it was formed…

Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 21.049s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 21.835, P4

McLaren had the pace to get both cars on to the front row, but first and fourth places still make them statistically the team that starts with the strongest chances. Kovalainen reported his MP4-23 to be all over the place on his first run in Q3 thanks to the crosswind, but put a sweet lap together on his second run to take the first pole of his F1 career. Hamilton went off the road at Priory on his first run, and admitted that he was more cautious through there on his second try. Some of the gap between them may be explained by respective fuel loads, but the truth is that the Finn has been very hooked up all weekend. Will this be his big breakthrough?

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 21.554s, P2
David Coulthard, 1m 20.174s, P11

Everybody was surprised to see Webber plant his Red Bull RB4 second on the grid, even the Australian himself. This is almost certainly the car in the top four with the lightest fuel load, but it was still a good performance that bodes well for a strong race from this emergent team. Coulthard was disappointed with 11th, and blamed the engine oil leak that lost him valuable track time to finish setting up the car in the morning.

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 21.706s, P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 23.305s, P9

Raikkonen was much happier with his Ferrari than he was on Friday, but still felt that it was not as good as it had been in the previous week’s test due to changes in the track conditions. He is one driver for sure desperate to know the fuel loads of his immediate rivals. Massa looked good all through practice, but suffered a problem with the right rear wheel nut on his Ferrari during his final tyre change, and never made it out for his second run.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 21.873s, P5
Robert Kubica, No time, P10

BMW Sauber were another team damned by ill fortune towards the end of Q3, when Kubica’s car suffered a mechanical problem at the rear which kept him in the pits when everyone else was doing their second runs. Heidfeld, however, was back to his old self with a strong run to fifth place, having run Kubica very close in Q2 when the F1.08s picked up a serious amount of pace.

Fernando Alonso, 1m 22.029s, P6
Nelson Piquet, 1m 22.491s, P7

Alonso said his sixth place was a satisfying result for Renault in the changing track conditions, and looks forward to a strong finish. Piquet was also pleased with his best qualifying performance in taking seventh, on his illustrious team mate’s tail. He was happy with his R28.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 23.251, P8
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 20.531s, P13

Vettel has looked good all weekend, and eighth on the grid showed that Toro Rosso are really getting to grips with their STR3. He was really happy with its balance and thus able to really lean on it in the fast stuff. Bourdais did a great job to leap to sixth place after the rain shower in Q1, and was relatively happy with the compromise set-up his crew arrived at on his car after struggling throughout practice. But he admitted that qualifying 13th was not satisfying.

Timo Glock, 1m 20.274s, P12
Jarno Trulli, 1m 20.601s, P14

After Magny-Cours, Toyota came down to earth with a bump at Silverstone. Glock said he was mystified why things didn’t work out better than 12th place for him, while Trulli continued to struggle to get his TF108 decently balanced.

Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 21.112s, P15
Nico Rosberg, 1m 21.668s, P18

Williams were in trouble again on their home track. Nakajima got through to Q2 while struggling for grip, but Rosberg was a faller in Q1 as he blamed the way his FW30 jumped ‘around all over the place’ in the corners.

Rubens Barrichello, 1m 21.512s, P16
Jenson Button, 1m 21.631s, P17

Barrichello admitted honestly that 16th and 17th places were a reflection of Honda’s potential on such a quick track, and both he and Button were unfortunate that their final Q1 runs came just as the rain fell. Resultant lack of tyre temperature killed their slim chances of making it through to Q2.

Force €ndia
Adrian Sutil, 1m 21.786s, P19
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 21.885s, P20

Sutil and Fisichella were encouraged by how close they got to the Hondas, but the former struggled with graining front tyres. Fisichella had a problem with his VJM01’s engine cover, and his chances of going quicker were frustrated when he spun in the complex on his final Q1 run.

David Tremayne