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Qualifying analysis - everything to play for in Valencia 24 Aug 2008

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari celebrates his pole position in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008. © Sutton Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in qualifying parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Toro Rosso in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008. © Sutton

As at the last round in Hungary, changing track conditions kept teams on their mettle in maximising grip and balance throughout practice and qualifying for the European Grand Prix. The first three runners set their times by sticking with Bridgestone’s super-soft option tyre, while the fourth fastest used the soft prime.

Overtaking remains an unknown quantity on the new Valencia Street Circuit, so by virtue of pole position Ferrari’s Felipe Massa starts as favourite for the race, but expect Lewis Hamilton and McLaren to push him all the way. Toro Rosso will be aiming for their best-ever result after a sensational qualifying, and with a high probability of one or more safety-car periods there may well be other surprises on Sunday. We take a team-by-team look at how they line up…

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 38.989s, P1
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 39.488s, P4

Massa was very happy with his Ferrari, putting his fourth pole position of the season down to a fantastic performance through the first sector in Q3 which really cemented the result. He reported how slippery the track still was after the overnight torrential rain, but coped admirably. Raikkonen opted to stay on the harder prime tyre, but said that P4 was not what he had been looking for. He locked up on his last run in Q3 and wasted valuable time.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 39.199s, P2
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 39.937s, P5

Hamilton seemed quite unruffled that Massa eventually pipped him to pole, and agreed that most of the damage was done by the first corner where he was already a couple of tenths down. Otherwise he had little to complain of, and believed he is in good shape to challenge for the win. Kovalainen liked his MP4-23’s balance, so was disappointed to be only fifth, especially as his lap was devoid of mistakes.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 39.392s, P3
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 40.631s, P8

With the right tyre pressures correcting the errors of the Hungaroring, Kubica said he was pretty happy overall after a smooth run, and believed that starting third, on the cleaner side of the grid, would give him an advantage over Hamilton. Heidfeld was blocked again by Glock in Q1, quick in Q2, but while he was generally happier with his car than he had been on Friday, he was disappointed with eighth overall.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 40.142s, P6
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 40.750s, P10

To the surprise of many, Toro Rosso’s amazing practice form continued in qualifying, with Vettel sixth and Bourdais 10th. Their speed raised many eyebrows, especially as the Red Bulls did not look impressive. The former said all the set-up changes they made overnight were positive, and that he would have been quicker but for a mistake in Turn 12 on his last run. Bourdais struggled for grip on the super-soft tyre, so was surprised to make it through to Q3 for the first time in his career.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 40.309s, P7
Timo Glock, 1m 38.499s, P13

Toyota might have expected better than seventh given Trulli’s fastest lap in Q2. The €talian was delighted that set-up changes transformed his TF108, less impressed that a gearbox oil pump problem kept him in the garage all morning in practice. Flying blind in qualifying, he made a mistake on his final run, but was delighted with P7. Glock said he didn’t know why, but he just didn’t get the lap together when it mattered.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 40.721s, P9
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 38.428s, P11

Back in the top 10, Williams looked stronger than of late, to the delight of Patrick Head who came out to Spain in place of Sam Michael. Neither Rosberg nor Nakajima had any problems on their way to ninth and 11th respectively.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 38.435s, P12
Nelson Piquet, 1m 38.744s, P15

Alonso was on target for the top 10 until he ran wide and over a kerb and spoiled his last run, and Piquet was also disappointed with 15th. Not a great afternoon for the Regie.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 38.515s, P14
David Coulthard, 1m 39.235s, P17

€n contrast to the Ferrari-engined Toro Rossos, the Renault-motored Red Bulls struggled badly with Webber 14th and Coulthard 17th. They just weren’t quick enough.

Honda
Jenson Button, 1m 38.880s, P16
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 39.811, P19

Button was very disappointed with 16th after showing so strongly earlier in the weekend, for where Toro Rosso upheld they speed, Honda could not. Quick on the prime tyre in Q1, he found the switch to the option tyre disastrous and failed to get through. Barrichello just couldn’t get his RA108 balanced, and struggled round to 19th.

Force €ndia
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 39.268s, P18
Adrian Sutil, 1m 39.943s, P20

Both cars ran their seamless-shift transmissions, and Fisichella reckoned he squeezed everything out of his VJM01 that it had to offer on his way to 18th. Sutil was seven-tenths slower, blaming traffic for his inability to warm up his tyres sufficiently.

David Tremayne