Qualifying analysis - and then there were three!
BMW Sauber are very definitely taking the fight to Ferrari and McLaren this weekend, and Robert Kubicaís maiden pole in Sakhir has set the cat among the pigeons. All three teams have cause to be optimistic about the race, and though Ferrari seem to have an edge on pace for much of the weekend, McLaren know that the presence of the interloper may help them, especially at the start.
Make no mistake, this has the makings thus far of the best race of the season. Behind them, Toyota and Williams are ready to go head-to-head, and the fight for the lower midfield placings is going to be no less intenseÖ
Robert Kubica, 1m 33.096, P1
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 33.737s, P6
A Pole on pole - itís the dream headline. And Kubica deserved it, after pushing hard for the rest of the lap, despite big vibrations, after he flat-spotted a front tyre in Turn Nine. Even he admitted that he was surprised to set the fastest time after that. While he was celebrating, Heidfeld admitted that he drew no satisfaction from sixth place. He has struggled to get the most out of his tyres, and it may be that Kubicaís more aggressive driving style is making the difference.
Felipe Massa, 1m 33.123s, P2
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 33.418s, P4
Ferrari didnít see BMW Sauber coming, but the respective fuel loads will be interesting to discover on Sunday. Massa led Raikkonen all weekend and is on a mission to rescue his career after two bad opening races. He might be starting on the dirty side, but he is a fighter and he is determined, so watch out for fireworks in the first corner. Raikkonen has looked a little off the pace this weekend, and was still not 100 percent happy with his Ferrariís balance. But he is going to be aggressive in the race, count on that.
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 33.292s, P3
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 33.488s, P5
McLaren might have got blown off by BMW Sauber and Ferrari (though we have yet to learn their respective fuel loads), but with third and fifth places, on the clean side of the grid, they werenít exactly ready to slash wrists. In fact, Hamilton looked pretty content with his time and the balance of his MP4-23, and Kovalainen reckoned he got all out of his car that it could give. They still feel optimistic about their race chances.
Jarno Trulli, 1m 33.994s, P7
Timo Glock, 1m 32.528s, P13
Toyota were delighted with Trulliís seventh place, which they believed was the best that they could realistically have aspired to. What made it even better was that they ran into an electronic problem on their fuel rig just before the critical Q3 session. Jarno said that the TF108 was well balanced, and was completely satisfied. Glock was not. He found it tricky with his final set of tyres in Q2, and lacked the confidence heíd had on his first run.
Nico Rosberg, 1m 34.015s, P8
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 32.943s, P16
Rosberg was much relieved that Williams were back on the pace, and was content with eighth on the grid as he did not believe the FW30 quite had what it needed to beat Trulliís Toyota. He also believes that the Williams is a better race car than qualifier. Nakajima had to be disappointed with 16th after showing speed at times earlier in the weekend, and said he wasnít able to get the best out of the tyres.
Jenson Button, 1m 35.057s, P9
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 32.508s, P12
Button aimed for a place in the top 10, and he got it. He and his crew worked patiently to balance the handling, and it all paid off with a starting position on the clean side of the grid, leaving him excited about his race prospects. Barrichello ran into a gearbox problem during Q2, without which he believed he would have joined his team mate.
Fernando Alonso, 1m 35.115s, P10
Nelson Piquet, 1m 32.975s, P14
Alonso admitted that he doubted he would get through to Q3 after Renaultís morning performance, but a raft of changes to his R28 made a big enough difference and gave the team the confidence to be aggressive in Q2. That paid off. Piquet has looked a lot more convincing again this weekend, but said that his final lap in Q2 was not perfect and was disappointed not to get through to Q3.
Mark Webber, 1m 33.194s, P11
David Coulthard, 1m 33.433s, P17
It didnít happen for Red Bull this time, and the team said they knew it would be tough to get through to Q3 on this track. Webber said the RB4 just wasnít quick enough to do it, whereas Coulthard said he was never as comfortable with his carís balance as he had been on Friday, and had bad Q1 runs on both the medium and soft tyres. He thought his best lap was still good enough to get into Q2, until he encountered oversteer going into Turn 13, moved the brake balance forward to try to compensate in the final corner, but met the same result.
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 33.415s, P15
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 33.562s, P19
Bourdais had the upper hand on Vettel all weekend, and was happier with his carís behaviour than was the German. As a result the Frenchman made Q2 for the first time, and his team mate didnít. One found a decent set-up, one didnít. Simple as that.
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 33.501s, P18
Adrian Sutil, 1m 33.845s, P20
Fisichella rued front brake locking problems which he was sure cost him his chance to get through into Q2. Sutil believed that the Sato red flag compressed the important laps of Q1 so much that judging the traffic in the final four minutes cost him whatever chance he had of getting through.
Anthony Davidson, 1m 34.140s, P21
Takuma Sato, 1m 35.725s P22
Davidson finally got a decent balance on his SA08A, and was pleased that only a few tenths separated him from Sutil. But Sato was less satisfied after spinning his car into the wall on the inside of the last corner in Q1, and briefly bringing out the red flag.