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Qualifying analysis - Massa's advantage real or psychological? 27 Sep 2008

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari in parc ferme after qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Singapore, Saturday, 27 September 2008 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Singapore, Saturday, 27 September 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Singapore, Saturday, 27 September 2008 The car of Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28 is returned to the pits after a problem in qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Singapore, Saturday, 27 September 2008 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda RA108 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 27 September 2008

The drivers believe overtaking will be tough in the Singapore Grand Prix, which made qualifying all the more crucial. After trying the super-soft Bridgestone option tyres, Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica all felt that the soft prime tyre was the better bet for Q3 and Massa used it to stunning effect. A pole lap over half a second quicker than Hamilton’s next best effort means the Brazilian has the psychological high ground as the two main title rivals go into Sunday’s race just one point apart in the standings…

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 44.801s, P1
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 45.617s, P3

Massa was delighted with the smoothness with which he was able to drive his Ferrari, and what he described as a ‘perfect lap’. He was almost certainly running lighter than either Hamilton or team mate Raikkonen, but it may not be more than two laps’ worth of fuel. Raikkonen himself lost time with an electronic problem in the morning which prevented him from selecting gears after his trip up an escape road, and he said that he was less happy with his F2008 on the soft Bridgestone in Q3 than he had been on the super-soft compound when he was fastest in Q1.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 45.465s, P2
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 45.873s, P5

Hamilton had a problem braking for Turn 1 early in Q2, lost that run, and further time being weighed before he could get everything together to scrape through into Q3 from 10th place. His second run in that final session was good enough for second, ahead of Raikkonen, and he said he was happy with that, Actually, he sounded relieved. Kovalainen was very happy with his MP4-23’s balance in the first two sessions, but lost time on his final run in Q3 after brushing a wall at the end of the lap.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 45.779s, P4
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 45.964s, P6, then put back three grid places

Kubica said qualifying was okay, that he was happy with fourth place, but not with his final run as he struggled for grip. He thought that this might have been because the tyres didn’t reach their optimum temperature as he had Massa in front of him. Heidfeld was happy that changes to his F1.08’s set-up had a beneficial effect, but was much less amused to learn that the stewards had docked him three grid places for impeding Rubens Barrichello in Q1.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 46.244s, P7
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 46.389s, P17

Vettel was delighted with the way qualifying went, and felt he achieved the maximum that was possible in Q3. He particularly praised set-up changes that made his STR3 much more manageable over the bumps. Bourdais had a less happy time. His car went sideways every time he braked even though nothing had been changed since the final practice session, and he fought instability and lack of grip throughout. To cap it all, he then learned of the death of Paul Newman, for whom he drove for five years in ChampCars.

Toyota
Timo Glock, 1m 46.328s, P8
Jarno Trulli, 1m 45.038s, P11

There was a welcome upturn in performance at Toyota, as Glock leapt up to eighth after a smooth run through to Q3 from Q2. And that became seventh after Heidfeld’s penalty. The younger German was well satisfied with his day. Trulli was in better frame of mind too, thanks to 11th place, but said it was nonetheless a frustrating session for him as he didn’t get the grip or feel to progress from Q2.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 46.611s, P9
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 47.547s, P10

Having both cars in the top 10 was a much-needed fillip for Williams. Rosberg’s practice form proved to be no fluke and he said he was happy even though he had expected better than ninth place. Nakajima was simply delighted to make Q3 for the first time after 14 previous attempts.

Honda
Jenson Button, 1m 45.133s, P12
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 46.583s, P18

Button had hoped for better than 12th overall after his practice runs, but it was still an improvement on Honda’s recent form. His final lap was compromised by too much understeer and low grip in the first sector, but he thought it was reasonable. Barrichello complained of traffic in Q1 (Heidfeld was subsequently penalised for impeding him), and then Alonso spun in front of him at the end and the resultant yellow flag prevented him from improving in the last sector. On top of that he was fined 10,000 euros for failing to access the pit lane from the designated deceleration zone.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 45.212s, P13
David Coulthard, 1m 45.298s, P14

Once again Red Bull had to play second fiddle to Toro Rosso. Webber said it was hard to find a rhythm and that neither of his Q2 flying laps worked out, one of them because of traffic. Coulthard made it through to Q2 in the final seconds of Q1, but was always struggling after losing time with a gearbox problem in free practice.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, No time P15
Nelson Piquet, 1m 46.037s, P16

With first and fourth places in free practice, Renault could never have expected 15th and 16th in qualifying. Alonso spun at the end of Q1, without damage, but on his out lap in Q2 his R28 simply died on him in Turn 18, to his considerable chagrin. €t had developed a fuel supply problem. Piquet seemed happy with the track all weekend, up until Q1. Then he just could not repeat the performance.

Force €ndia
Adrian Sutil, 1m 47.940s, P19
Giancarlo Fisichella, No time, P20

Sutil said this was one of the team’s worst qualifying performances this year, as he struggled for grip and balance throughout Q1. Fisichella damaged his VJM01 after making a mistake in free practice and flying over the Turn 10 kerbs and into the wall. €t was repaired in time for qualifying, only for him to go off in similar circumstances in Turn 3 on his out lap in Q1. He blamed a puncture, which he said affected the steering.

David Tremayne