It's Ferrari v McLaren up front, as Renault and Honda fade
The animals came in two by two at the front of the grid for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, as the final session of qualifying developed into a last-lap shoot-out between McLaren and Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen was the first to cross the start/finish line, temporarily snatching the coveted pole position with 1m 35.479s for Ferrari. But McLarens Fernando Alonso grabbed that away immediately, following him across the line mere feet behind and stopping the clocks in 1m 35.310s. Lewis Hamilton was next across in 1m 36.045s to secure fourth, but then Felipe Massa put things beyond reach with 1m 35.043s to restore Ferraris supremacy. The closeness of the times, however, and the fact that they were all set on Bridgestones softer compound, bodes well for a great race on Sunday.
Nick Heidfeld was again quick for BMW Sauber, taking fifth place on 1m 36.543s, but Robert Kubica ran a trifle too late and lost out for sixth to the on-form Nico Rosberg, who pushed his Williams to 1m 36.829s compared to the Poles 1m 36.896s.
Once again the two Toyotas made it through to Q3, Jarno Trulli reversing the previous practice trend to beat team mate Ralf Schumacher, 1m 36.902s to 1m 37.078s. Finally, Red Bulls improvement continued as Mark Webber got through to the final stage and will line up 10th on 1m 37.345s.
Extraordinarily, Q2 had weeded out Renault - the winners here for the past two years - as Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella struggled to 1m 35.630s and 1m 35.706s respectively. That left them only on row six, ahead of David Coulthards Red Bull (1m 35.766s), Super Aguris Takuma Sato (1m 35.945s), Jenson Button in the Honda (1m 36.088s) and Toro Rossos Tonio Liuzzi (1m 36.145s).
The unlucky six in Q1 were Scott Speed in the second Toro Rosso (1m 36.578s), Super Aguris Anthony Davidson (1m 36.816s after complaints of being blocked by traffic), Hondas Rubens Barrichello (1m 36.827s in the spare car following gearbox issues with his race car at the start of the hour), Alex Wurz in the Williams (1m 37.326s, before he too encountered gearbox problems), Spykers Christijan Albers (1m 38.279s) and team mate Adrian Sutil (1m 38.465s).
Clearly there were some unhappy people out there - notably the Renault and Honda drivers
but the potential battle between Ferrari and McLaren in what is always a very tough encounter should make for a memorable 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix.