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Massa puts Ferrari on pole for European Grand Prix 23 Aug 2008

Post qualifying parc ferme (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren, second; Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari, pole position; Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1, third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008 Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008 Timo Glock (GER) Toyota TF108.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 August 2008

For fleeting moments in Saturday’s qualifying session in Valencia McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton appeared to have done enough to secure his third consecutive pole position, but Felipe Massa’s final run in the Ferrari unseated the Englishman.

The Brazilian said that it all came together beautifully for him in the first sector, yielding a lap of 1m 38.989s to Hamilton’s 1m 39.199s. Behind them, Robert Kubica was very happy with his BMW Sauber as he took third on 1m 39.392s. All three used Bridgestone’s super-soft tyre, whereas Kimi Raikkonen stuck with the harder prime tyre for his fourth-fastest lap of 1m 39.488s.

In fifth place came Hungarian Grand Prix winner Heikki Kovalainen in the second McLaren, and practice/qualifying sensation Sebastian Vettel made sixth place for Toro Rosso on 1m 40.142s after being second quickest in Q1 and setting the pace in Q2.

Jarno Trulli was fastest for Toyota in that first session, but ended up seventh in Q3 in 1m 40.309s, to head BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld (1m 40.631s), Williams’ Nico Rosberg (1m 40.721s) and Sebastien Bourdais (who completed Toro Rosso’s surprise by getting the second STR3 into the top 10 with 1m 40.750s).

There were some spots of rain down the main straight at one stage, but Kubica reported that they had no effect on performance.

Q2 weeded out Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima (1m 38.428s), Renault’s Fernando Alonso (who was on a better lap until he ran wide over a kerb and thus had to be satisfied with 1m 38.435s), Toyota’s Timo Glock (1m 38.499s), Red Bull’s Mark Webber (1m 38.515s) and Renault’s Nelson Piquet (1m 38.744s).

Honda’s hopes took a dive after Jenson Button’s promising practice performances could not be repeated, leaving the Englishman 16th on 1m 38.880s. Team mate Rubens Barrichello was 19th on 1m 39.811s. Between the RA108s was David Coulthard on 1m 39.235s for Red Bull and Giancarlo Fisichella on 1m 39.268s, whose Force India team mate Adrian Sutil brought up the rear on 1m 39.943s.

Incredibly, given the unforgiving nature of the track, nobody had any significant incidents, though most expect safety-car periods to be inevitable in Sunday's race.