Kubica gives BMW Sauber maiden pole in Bahrain

Felipe Massa has made the running here all weekend, but on Saturday he had to play second fiddle to Robert Kubica as the Pole grabbed the first pole position of his career, and the first for BMW Sauber.

When the chips were down in the final runs of Q3, Lewis Hamilton went to the top with 1m 33.292s for McLaren, but then Kubica banged in 1m 33.096s - even though he said his car was pulling to one side under braking - and when Massa came up short with 1m 33.123s, the dye was set, to the delight of the men from Munich and Hinwil. Their speeds, of course, could owe much to their respective fuel loads, but it was all great theatre.

Behind them, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen just pipped fellow countryman, McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen, for fourth, 1m 33.418s to 1m 33.488s, and again fuel loads may be a factor there.

Nick Heidfeld put his BMW Sauber in sixth place with 1m 33.737s, beating Jarno Trulli who again had the Toyota in the top 10 with 1m 33.994s. Williams faded a little after the speed Nico Rosberg has shown all weekend, but the German will line up eighth with 1m 34.015s. Jenson Button achieved his top 10 target with ninth place and 1m 35.057s for Honda, while Renault’s speed also faded as Fernando Alonso settled for 10th with 1m 35.115s.

Once again conditions were different, with many drivers complaining that the wind was wreaking havoc on their cars’ balance and stability.

Q2 was dominated by Massa, who whirled his Ferrari round in 1m 31.188s to head Kovalainen (1m 31.718s) and Kubica (1m 31.745s). The only driver to improve significantly over his first run time was Heidfeld, who jumped to fourth with 1m 31.909s.

The Q2 fallers this time were Red Bull’s Mark Webber (1m 32.371s), Honda’s Rubens Barrichello (1m 32.508s), Toyota’s Timo Glock (1m 32.528s), Renault’s Nelson Piquet (1m 32.790s), Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais (1m 32.915s) and Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima (1m 32.943s). They will start the race in positions 11 through 16.

Takuma Sato brought out a brief red flag in Q1 after spinning his Super Aguri in the final corner and walloping it backwards into the pit wall. He parked up just past the pit exit, and the session was stopped while the car was recovered.

The ensuing mad scramble over the final four minutes saw the Japanese driver and team mate Anthony Davidson eliminated, with respective times of 1m 35.725s and 1m 34.140s, together with Red Bull’s David Coulthard (1m 33.433s), Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 33.501s), Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel (1m 33.562s) and Force India’ Adrian Sutil (1m 33.845s). Coulthard was particularly unlucky, as 1m 33.415s was sufficient to get Red Bull stablemate Bourdais through into Q2.

This time there were no penalties for inadvertent blocking, after an FIA edict threatened to penalise any driver deemed to be driving unnecessarily slowly. Cars leaving the pits were timed between SC line 2 (the second safety car line, 50 metres before Turn One) and SC line 1 (the second safety car line, after Turn 15), and any car exceeding a time of 1m 39.0s between these points would be deemed to have been driven unnecessarily slowly.