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Qualifying analysis - fuel-heavy Brawns to challenge McLaren? 22 Aug 2009

Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009 McLaren MP4/24s of Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB5.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009 (L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari with Luca Badoer (ITA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31 stops during qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009

As ever, the fuel figures told an interesting tale after qualifying in Valencia, with Brawn looking stronger for the race than either McLaren or Red Bull, and Williams and Ferrari also looking a threat. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton had an all-up weight of 653 kg, Heikki Kovalainen 655; Brawn’s Rubens Barrichello 662.5 and Jenson Button 661.5; Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel 654 and Mark Webber 664.5; Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen 661.5; Williams’ Nico Rosberg 665; Renault’s Fernando Alonso 656.5 and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica 657.5. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday in Spain…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 39.498s, P1
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 39.532s, P2

Hamilton said his new short wheelbase MP4-24’s rear end was still a little loose but was delighted with its pace overall as he took his 14th career pole and his first of the 2009 season. Kovalainen, in the standard longer wheelbase car, was set to challenge for pole, but made a small but costly mistake in the final sector of his second run and lost the lap. Second, nevertheless, gave the Finn great encouragement as McLaren annexed the front row.

Brawn GP
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 39.563s, P3
Jenson Button, 1m 39.821s, P5

Barrichello was happy with the progress he felt Brawn had made, though the jury is still out as to whether they have really got to the bottom of their tyre warming issues or whether the hot weather simply masked them again. The Brazilian was disappointed not to be on pole but has comfortably more fuel than the two drivers ahead of him on the grid. Button was a fraction lighter and said his car handled better with a fuel load, but a mistake in Turn Four compromised him in Turn Five, erasing his chances of taking fourth place.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 39.789s, P4
Mark Webber, 1m 40.239s, P9

Red Bull didn’t seem to have the edge they have enjoyed in the last three races, and Vettel was resigned to fourth even though he might have expected more from his relatively light fuel load. Webber struggled yesterday and expected a tough qualifying session. He got it. But he was one of the fuel-heaviest runners, which might help him on Sunday.

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 40.144s, P6
Luca Badoer, 1m 41.413s, P20

Raikkonen said this was one of the best qualifying sessions of his season, and that Sunday’s result would be all down to the start. He also felt that the F60 was better with fuel on board. Badoer had a hard time and reiterated that this was more of a test session for him after his 10-year layoff from Formula One racing.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 40.185s, P7
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 39.795s, P17

Rosberg said that his qualifying session was generally okay, and that his strategy could put him in a strong race position. He also expressed the view that rather than try to out-qualify the KERS cars (McLaren and one of the Ferraris), it was better to qualify behind them with a higher fuel load and outrun them. Nakajima was only 17th after a failure on his FW31 caused its Toyota engine to shutdown in the middle of Q1.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 40.236s, P8
Romain Grosjean, 1m 39.040s, P14

To begin with, Alonso entertained thoughts of third or fourth place but soon realised in Q1 that would not be the case. He was eighth in Q2 and Q3, indicating that was the car’s limit on Saturday. Grosjean did a reasonable job in his first Grand Prix qualifying and showed well in the first part of Q2 in particular.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 40.512s, P10
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 38.826s, P11

Kubica was happy with BMW Sauber’s stronger showing, thanks to its new aero package, and said he’d had a good day overall apart from traffic in Q3 when he also made a small mistake that cost a few tenths. Heidfeld was disappointed to miss out by a tenth on making Q3.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 38.846s, P12
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 39.531s, P16

After the apparent promise of practice Force India had to be satisfied with 12th and 16th places. Sutil said he was really happy with updates that had let the team make big steps forward, and like Heidfeld was a little frustrated to get so close to Q3. Fisichella was very disappointed to catch traffic on his last run in Q1 and believed without that he would easily have made Q2.

Toyota
Timo Glock, 1m 38.991s, P13
Jarno Trulli, 1m 39.807s, P18

Toyota did not have a happy day. Glock struggled in the morning and in Q1, but things were better in Q2 until the rear Bridgestones surrendered grip in the final sector. Trulli was expecting trouble, but not anything like 18th place. The Italian complained of lack of grip in the morning, and it worsened in qualifying.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 39.514s, P15
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 39.925s, P19

Buemi was sixth in Q1 but said Toro Rosso didn’t manage their tyre situation well in Q2 when he went quite a bit slower. Alguersuari said he needed to be patient, especially as this was only his second qualifying session. He said his confidence is growing in the STR4.

David Tremayne