Qualifying analysis - can strategy, or rain, defeat Ferrari?
Felipe Massa will start from pole position for the first time at Monaco on Sunday, and you have to go back to 2000 since Ferrari last did that. And to 1979 since a Ferrari poleman - future champion Jody Scheckter - actually won the race.
After locking out row one Massa and Kimi Raikkonen are understandably confident. However, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen say they are on race strategies that should allow them to challenge for victory. Much could depend on the weather, however, with rain forecast…
Felipe Massa, 1m 15.787s, P1
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 15.815s, P4
Massa had a good look through Raikkonen’s telemetry after his first run, but picked up a lot more pace than he had expected to and admitted that he was very surprised to be on pole ahead of his team mate, who said he messed up Ste Devote on his second run and thus had to try and make up for that all through the rest of the lap. There is a suspicion that the F2008s were running lighter than the McLarens, but in any case they seem to maintain their performance with a fuel load, whereas the silver cars lose a little pace.
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 15.839s, P3
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 16.165s, P4
Hamilton said he was surprised by the pace of the Ferraris, and that although his McLaren was very quick in the first sector it lacked traction exiting Portier and the chicane, and that the pace just wasn’t there in the final sector. Kovalainen, who had clobbered the wall at the Swimming Pool in morning practice, and who is almost certainly running the heavier fuel load yet again, said he had a good run and was mystified why there was a relatively large gap to the three cars ahead of him.
Robert Kubica, 1m 16.171s, P5
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 16.455s, P13
Kubica was in his customary fifth place, but felt he might have gone a little quicker had he not had Hamilton in front of him on the out lap of his best run. While trying to create a big enough gap between his BMW Sauber and the McLaren he let his tyres cool too much, and suffered as a result. Nevertheless he was a lot happier than Heidfeld, who struggled all weekend on a circuit on which he has shone previously, and his inability to generate sufficient heat in his Bridgestones left him 13th overall.
Nico Rosberg, 1m 16.548s, P6
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 16.479s, P14
Rosberg has been on it all weekend for Williams and was delighted with his sixth fastest time in the FW30. Besides Massa, he was the happiest guy in the top six. Nakajima showed flashes of speed, but again failed to make Q3 after making too many errors on his quick laps.
Fernando Alonso, 1m 16.852s, P7
Nelson Piquet, 1m 16.633s, P17
Seventh seems to be Alonso’s current slot, and Renault’s modest goal in qualifying was to make it through to Q3. This he did easily, but Piquet struggled yet again and was only 17th after suffering a small brake problem in Q1.
Jarno Trulli, 1m 17.203s, P8
Timo Glock, 1m 15.907s, P11
Trulli was grateful to make the top 10 again after all his problems had sapped some of the confidence you need to go really quickly here. Glock was really disappointed not to make the top 10 after running ahead of his team mate for much of practice. He said his first run in Q2 was good but that the last two sectors just didn’t come together on his second try.
Mark Webber, 1m 17.343s, P9
David Coulthard, 1m 15.839s, P10
Once again Red Bull got both cars into the top 10, with Webber ninth and Coulthard 10th. It was bittersweet, however. While the Australian had few problems, the Scot hit the wall hard exiting the chicane and was mystified why. He thought he might have locked a brake, which turned his RB4 sharp right into the wall, but even so the violence of the swerve surprised him and the team are currently investigating to see whether there was a mechanical fault that triggered the incident that prevented him from taking his place in Q3.
Jenson Button, 1m 16.101s, P12
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 16.537s, P15
Button complained that yellow flags prevented him from exploiting the potential of the Honda’s improved front-end grip. Barrichello complained of traffic and yellow flags too, but was cleared by the stewards of holding up Fisichella.
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 16.806s, P16
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 16.955s, P18, starts P19
Bourdais said Massa held him up on his first run in Q1 in the STR3, but that it didn’t make much difference as he struggled to ‘read’ the new car. Locking brakes hampered his second run, and he also felt he lacked sheer grip. Vettel, meanwhile, felt that he should have stuck with the soft tyres instead of the supersofts and lost grip over the lap as a result. The German received a five-place penalty as his STR3’s gearbox was replaced prior to Saturday morning practice.
Adrian Sutil, 1m 17.225s, P19
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 17.823s, P20
Sutil said he quite liked the feel of his VJM01 but had to pass cars in the first sector of his good lap. On the positive side, the team had cured his tyre graining problem from Thursday. Fisichella’s 200th Grand Prix start will be from 20th place even though Vettel got a penalty, because the Italian also got one for having his gearbox replaced in the morning. He complained that Barrichello held him up, but the stewards deemed that the Brazilian had no case to answer.