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Title contenders fail to weather Monza storms 13 Sep 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monza, Italy, Friday, 12 September 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 13 September 2008

Wet conditions during qualifying often make for interesting grids, but the rain that hit Monza on Saturday saw not one but three of this season’s championship contenders fail to make it through to Q3. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica will all start the Italian Grand Prix from outside the top ten.

Of the three, Hamilton was perhaps the hardest hit. The Spa pole-sitter, who usually relishes wet conditions, was unable to improve from 15th during Q2, after an ill-judged investigative lap on standard (as opposed to extreme) wet tyres robbed him of a quick run before the rain worsened.

"It was a joint decision to go out on wet-weather tyres at the start of Q2 - partly mine and partly my engineers',” Hamilton explained. “We thought it was the right way to go at the time because it was getting dryer but the grip level was poor so I came in and switched to extremes.

"By the time I got out, it had begun to rain and I just missed the window when the track was at its fastest; it was also very hard to pick out the braking points. It's the first time this has happened to me in Formula One, so I can't really complain - tomorrow's another day and we still have a fighting chance to make our way up the grid. I'll be doing the best job I can."

Championship rival Raikkonen fared little better. The Finn, who has struggled at recent events to qualify amongst the frontrunners, will start Sunday’s race from 14th on the grid, after a spin during his fastest lap ruined his chances of making Q3.

"I was unable to do a time in Q2 when the conditions would still have made it possible and then it was impossible to catch up,” he explained. “On that lap, I went off at Ascari where there was a lot of water on the track, which meant I didn't make it through to the next session.

“Now we must try and make the best of this situation which is definitely not ideal. Starting from the seventh row of the grid could be a bit tricky at the start, because the entry to the first chicane is very tight and it is easy to touch other cars. In the dry, the car is working very well but obviously, if it were to rain, it could give some chances to those who are starting further back like me."

Kubica, meanwhile, believed he fell foul of timing rather than circumstance. The Polish driver thought he could have gone quicker were it not for the deteriorating conditions towards the end of Q2. He will start the Italian race from 11th on the grid.

“We were a bit unlucky today as the gap to position 10 and the third qualifying session was very narrow,” said the BMW Sauber driver. “We put a new set of tyres on the car for the second qualifying session, as we planned not to make a pit stop in the session. You need two or three laps to make the tyres work. The track dried up after the first laps, but then it started to rain heavily so unfortunately I was not able to improve the lap times.”

Of those drivers still in contention for the drivers’ title, only Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made it through to Q3. But the best Massa could manage during the final shootout was sixth - no doubt a source of some relief to his rivals.