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Qualifying analysis - Vettel & Toro Rosso reign supreme 13 Sep 2008

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR03 celebrates his pole position.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008

The rain that has been such a feature of the Monza weekend continued to wreak havoc on both practice and qualifying on Saturday, and left some star names in embarrassingly low grid positions as one of the sport’s underdog teams came good. That’s not to imply luck was involved in Sebastian Vettel’s and Toro Rosso’s maiden pole - this was no case of fortuitous timing in changing weather conditions. The German - the youngest man to start from the front of the grid - and the team both earned their P1 on merit…

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 37.555s, P1
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 38.445s, P4

Toro Rosso - formerly Minardi - caused a sensation by taking first and fourth places for their home Grand Prix. Vettel said he just could not believe that he actually achieved pole position - and displaced Fernando Alonso as the youngest-ever polesitter in the process - having joked with his engineer that if it was wet they ought to go for it. He drove well all day, and was the dominant driver in both Q2 and Q3. Bourdais was also close all the way through, and still managed fourth - his personal F1 best - despite an aquaplane spin at Ascari.

McLaren
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 37.631s, P2
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 39.265s, P15

Kovalainen was on it all day, and ultimately missed out on pole by 0.076s, but it’s safe to assume he had more fuel aboard that Vettel’s Toro Rosso. With pace in both the wet and the dry, he is feeling confident for the race. Hamilton, however, was left kicking himself after taking a gamble on standard wet (aka intermediate) tyres at the beginning of Q2 and then losing out big time when the heavier rain fell and he got on to Bridgestone’s extremes too late. Starting 15th gives him a mountain to climb.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 38.117s, P3
David Coulthard, 1m 37.284s, P13

Webber said his first run in Q3 was not great and thought he had spoiled his chances as it was due to rain again, but he pulled another great lap out of the bag to snatch third place from Bourdais in the dying moments. Coulthard complained of traffic on his best Q2 laps, which prevented him getting his time in before the weather worsened.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.767s, P5
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 36.653s, P18

There was good and bad news for Williams. Rosberg rose to the occasion with an excellent fifth place on the grid, Nakajima did not and was left 18th in the line-up. Again, he complained that he did not find a clear lap in traffic. Rosberg found several and was consistently able to run at the front.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 38.894s, P6
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 37.522s, P14

Massa said it was a very difficult qualifying session but that he was generally happy, taking the view that things could have been worse (as indeed they were for team mate Raikkonen). The latter was simply unable to do a decent time in Q2 when it would have been possible to make up ground, and then went off on the lake at Ascari.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 39.152s, P7
Timo Glock, 1m 39.787s, P9

Despite a near-miss with Vettel, Trulli was very pleased with Toyota’s performance in qualifying for his home race. Glock was a little bit mystified that his car’s performance dipped in the final 10 minutes after showing well all day, but likewise believes he is in good shape for the race.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 39.751s, P8
Nelson Piquet, 1m 36.630s, P17

Alonso was pretty satisfied with his afternoon’s work and didn’t think Renault would have had an easier time had it been dry. Piquet admitted that he has lacked pace all weekend, and things did not improve in qualifying.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 39.906s, P10
Robert Kubica, 1m 36.697s, P11

Heidfeld said he got less grip than he expected in Q3 and was thus mystified. Kubica spun away his chances of improving right at the end of Q2.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 36.698s, P12
Adrian Sutil, 1m 37.417s, P20

Fisichella was well pleased with 13th place on the grid for his home Grand Prix, after getting through to Q2 for the first time this season. Sutil said his car was really well balanced until he put on a second set of tyres, whereupon its grip went away and he lost six-tenths of a second despite better track conditions.

Honda
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 36.510s, P16
Jenson Button, 1m 37.006s, P19

It rained, and still Honda could not do better than 16th and 19th on the grid. Barrichello said there was a miscommunication when he wanted to stay on the same set of tyres during his pit stop and have more front wing, and the team gave him a fresh set and took off wing. Button said he just couldn’t generate sufficient tyre temperature with his RA108 in low-downforce guise, and suffered locking wheels under braking as a result.

David Tremayne