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Mighty Massa heads Ferrari front row at Sepang 22 Mar 2008

Pole sitter Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari leads out team mate Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari and third placed Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren in parc ferme.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008 The Ferrari F2008s and McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 of Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren in parc ferme.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 22 March 2008

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa will start from pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix for the second consecutive year, after lapping the Sepang circuit in 1m 35.748s in the final session of qualifying.

The fact that the Brazilian was half a second faster than team mate Kimi Raikkonen suggests that he was running less fuel, but either way the two of them seemed happy enough as McLaren’s best runner was Heikki Kovalainen in third.

Raikkonen posted 1m 36.230s, Kovalainen 1m 36.613s. Lewis Hamilton was fourth, on 1m 36.709s, which was just enough to beat Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, and the BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, who were all closely matched on 1m 36.711s, 1m 36.727s and 1m 36.753s. You can bet that there are some fuel load discrepancies in there somewhere.

To add further spice to the mix, McLaren's race prospects subsequently took a significant knock after both their drivers were penalised five grid places for blocking rivals as they slowed at the end of Q3.

Mark Webber qualified eighth - but will now start sixth - with 1m 37.009s, the stewards having agreed to let Red Bull’s cars run after Friday’s problems, while Fernando Alonso and Timo Glock put Renault and Toyota ninth and tenth respectively with 1m 38.450s and 1m 39.656s. Alonso moves up to P7 on the grid after the McLaren penalties.

Q2 weeded out Jenson Button, who was nevertheless reasonably pleased with 11th fastest time for Honda of 1m 35.208s; Red Bull’s David Coulthard on 1m 35.408s; Nelson Piquet on 1m 35.562s for Renault; Rubens Barrichello in the second Honda on 1m 35.622s; Sebastian Vettel with 1m 35.648s for Toro Rosso; and Nico Rosberg for Williams on 1m 35.670s.

The leading Q1 faller was Giancarlo Fisichella, who took his Force India round in 1m 36.240s. Kazuki Nakajima hoped for better than 1m 36.388s which left him 18th (but he loses 10 places on the grid for his incident with Robert Kubica under the final safety car in Australia).

Thus Sebastien Bourdais gets 18th place on the grid in the second Toro Rosso (1m 36.677s), having spoiled his chances of getting into Q2 by sliding off the road in Turn Four on his final run. The Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were separated by Adrian Sutil’s Force India. Sato lapped in 1m 37.087s, Sutil in 1m 37.101s and Davidson 1m 37.481s; they will start 19th, 20th and 21st respectively.

Altogether, it was an interesting session, with the indication that Ferrari have an edge, and that McLaren will be relying on the start again to stage a repeat of last year’s success.