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Qualifying analysis - fuel-laden Hamilton the man to beat 26 Sep 2009

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/24.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 26 September 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 26 September 2009 Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix after being knocked out in Q2.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 26 September 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 26 September 2009 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1 VJM02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 26 September 2009

Thankfully for Lewis Hamilton it was Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello whose accident safeguarded his pole position, and not McLaren team mate Heikki Kovalainen. The Brazilian’s meeting with the Turn Five wall, just as the key second runs were getting underway in the final part of Q3, and with only 26s left, ensured that nobody got to improve on their first efforts. Would Sebastian Vettel or Nico Rosberg have gone faster? We will never know…

For the record, these were the fuel weights: Hamilton 660.5 kg; Vettel 651; Rosberg 657.5; Webber 654.5; Barrichello 655.5; Alonso 658; Glock 660.5; Heideld 650; Kubica 664; Kovalainen 664.5.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 47.891s, P1
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 49.778s, P10, will start P9

Hamilton was delighted to be able to redeem himself after his crash at Monza, and to reward his mechanics for a very long night building him a car round a new monocoque. The integral KERS wiring of his initial chassis showed signs of potential problems, so a new tub was flown out as a precaution. He felt he could have gone at least a couple of tenths faster had he done a second run. On corrected fuel weights, he looks very strong. A frustrated Kovalainen, like the Red Bull duo, did his banker lap on the soft Bridgestone tyre, but was unable to use the set of new super softs that his crew had kept back for his final effort.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 48.204s P2
Mark Webber, 1m 48.722, P4

Vettel maintained his record as the only man to get through to Q3 in every race this year, but was disappointed to miss out on his second run as his grid time was set on used tyres and he kept a new set back for that final effort. He is in a very confident frame of mind, however. Webber said he never feels his first run is to count for the grid, and thus had something in reserve for the second which never came. He too set his time on scrubbed rubber, and likewise will be hunting for a strong result to close down the gap to the troubled Brawns.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 48.348s, P3
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 47.013s, P11

Rosberg was very pleasantly surprised by third overall, and even more so by his FW31’s fantastic pace in Q2 when he set the weekend’s fastest lap by a couple of tenths. He said he was delighted with the way Friday’s significant set-up changes had highlighted the correct route to get so much out of the car, and that he is confident of fighting for a podium finish. Nakajima said he didn’t get enough from his tyres on his out lap.

Brawn GP
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 48.828s, P5, will start P10 due to gearbox penalty
Jenson Button, 1m 47.141s, P12

As if Barrichello’s gearbox change penalty wasn’t bad enough, the Brazilian clobbered the Turn Five wall hard as he tried to improve on his final run. He felt that he might have damaged the floor earlier straddling a kerb, and reported that the car hadn’t felt quite right just before he went off on the dust that lay off line. Button suddenly lost his previous speed and struggled to 12th place as understeer made his BGP001 difficult under braking and led to a flat-spotted front tyre. He knows that, just as in Valencia, he is in for a tough race.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 49.054s, P6, will start P5
Romain Grosjean, 1m 48.544s, P19

Alonso said his pace was not as good as it could have been, and that if necessary he would drive a defensive race. At the other end of the grid, Grosjean reported problems with the brakes on his R29, hence his trip down the Turn Seven escape road on his Q1 out lap.

Toyota
Timo Glock, 1m 49.180s, P7, will start P6
Jarno Trulli, 1m 47.413s, P15

Toyota bounced back here, with Glock feeling confident in his TF109’s performance, especially in Q2 when he immediately went a second faster than he had previously. Trulli, however, complained of lack of grip.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 49.307s, P8, will start P7
Robert Kubica, 1m 49.514s, P9, will start P8

BMW Sauber’s major rear-end revamp bore some good fruit here as Heidfeld and Kubica easily qualified in the top 10. The German, however, was very disappointed not to get the chance to run the softer Bridgestone on his second run, when he expected to be much quicker. Kubica said the same, explaining that the harder tyre lost him two tenths in the first two corners alone.

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 47.177s, P13
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 48.350s, P18

This was a very disappointing qualifying session for Ferrari. The F60 is showing its relative age as other teams brought along big updates and the Scuderia preferred to focus on 2010. Raikkonen said there was nothing more he could do, while Fisichella said he simply hasn’t yet developed the requisite level of confidence in his car and that he still felt it was driving him rather than the other way round.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 47.369s, P14
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 48.340, P17

Buemi got going pretty well this weekend and reported that his qualifying went smoothly. Alguersuari got faster as the weekend progressed, but reported the Marina Bay circuit to be the hardest he has driven bar Macau.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 48.231s, P16
Tonio Liuzzi 1m 48.792s, P20

Sutil said his VJM02 was still very quick in a straight line, but that it has lacked grip all weekend. He also felt that he lost time (ironically to former team mate Fisichella) in the middle sector of his final lap, but the stewards deemed the Italian had no case to answer after reviewing the evidence. Liuzzi always said he expected a tougher time here than in Monza, and that he never found the right balance after a slight misunderstanding with his engineer led to a mite too much front-wing flap.