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Kovalainen storms to maiden pole at Silverstone 05 Jul 2008

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren celebrates his first pole position in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 5 July 2008. © Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4 celebrates his second position in qualifying parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 5 July 2008 Post qualifying parc ferme (L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, second; Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren first pole position; Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari, third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 5 July 2008

The home fans wanted it to be Hamilton, but it will be the other McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen that will start Sunday’s British Grand Prix from P1 on the grid. The Finn won his first F1 pole position the hard way, fighting rain spits and high crosswinds which sent cars skittering all over the place during the first runs in the final session.

On his second, Kovalainen nailed it, lapping in 1m 21.049s. That displaced surprise second-place man Mark Webber, who lapped his Red Bull in 1m 21.554s, to give Dietrich Mateschitz’s emergent team their first front-row start. Third place went to Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 21.706s in a Ferrari which he said was going much better than it did on Friday.

So what of Hamilton? He made an error going into Priory on his first run, as the crosswind blew his McLaren into oversteer which then put him on to the gravel. On his second run he lapped in 1m 21.835s to go second, until Webber and then Kovalainen improved.

Of course, much will depend on the respective fuel loads, but the feeling is that Kovalainen looks very strong having been consistently quick all weekend.

Nick Heidfeld enjoyed an upturn in fortune with the final sub-1m 21s lap, taking his BMW Sauber round in 1m 21.873s. Team mate Robert Kubica should have been close to him, but failed to get a run in the final session after his F1.08 developed a problem around its rear end.

Renault will start sixth and seventh, with Fernando Alonso lapping his R28 in 1m 22.029s and Nelson Piquet his in 1m 22.491s. Sebastian Vettel’s great form continued with eighth fastest time of 1m 23.251s for Toro Rosso ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Kubica. Massa encountered a problem with a wheel nut during his final tyre change, and did not get out on time for his second run.

David Coulthard was 11th for Red Bull with 1m 20.174s, leading Toyota’s Timo Glock (1m 20.274s), Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais (who had leapt up to sixth place at the end of Q1 after running after the late rain shower, and now lapped in 1m 20.531s), Toyota’s Jarno Trulli (1m 20.601s) and Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima (1m 21.112s). The latter pair swapped places and then swapped them back again as they completed their final runs.

Neither of the Hondas or Force Indias made it through Q1, where they were joined by the remaining Williams of Nico Rosberg, who complained of suspension problems on his Williams. Rubens Barrichello was the quickest of the unhappiest bunch with 1m 21.512s, chased by Jenson Button on 1m 21.631s, Rosberg on 1m 21.668s, then Adrian Sutil who aced team mate Giancarlo Fisichella 1m 21.786s to 1m 21.885s. The Italian spoiled his chance of improving by spinning haplessly in the infield on his final try.

In the end, despite the brief shower, rain didn’t really impact qualifying. It could yet, however, have a major effect on Sunday’s race.