Championship leader Lewis Hamilton joins him on the front of the grid and each will have their respective team mates directly behind them at the start of tomorrow’s title decider.
Mark Webber lines up an impressive fifth, behind Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.
The Spykers were the first cars out on track but Adrian Sutil’s hopes were dashed early in the session. Having set a time almost a second quicker than team mate Sakon Yamamoto he pulled off on his way back to the pits.
Lewis Hamilton’s first lap looked scrappy – oversteering wide in the first corner and only five hundredths of a second quicker than Mark Webber’s Red Bull. It was no better for Fernando Alonso – over six tenths slower than Hamilton on his first lap.
All the drivers appeared to be struggling for grip on the hot track, which had exceeded 60C. Kimi Raikkonen pipped Hamilton by 0.017s on his second lap – but then Felipe Massa took over at the top, seven tenths faster than anyone, also on his second lap.
The battle at the bottom comprised Jenson Button (less than three hundredths behind Jarno Trulli), Ralf Schumacher, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima, Sutil (who was already out of the session) and Yamamoto. But less than seven tenths covered seventh (Vitantonio Liuzzi) to 18th (Schumacher).
Schumacher and Button both made it out of the bottom six – Button taking 16th with his final effort before Heikki Kovalainen narrowly failed to beat it. The Finn’s last lap was 0.024s slower than Button after a mistake in tbe last sector and he failed to reach the second part of qualifying for the second time this year.
Takuma Sato also fell into the drop zone alongside with fellow Japanese drivers Yamamoto and debutante Kazuki Nakajima.
The only one of the top four drivers to set an extra lap was Alonso, who used up one of his sets of super soft tyres to set the second fastest time.
Bottom six drivers’ times for part one
17. Heikki Kovalainen 1’14.078
18. Takuma Sato 1’14.098
19. Kazuki Nakajima 1’14.417
20. Anthony Davidson 1’14.596
21. Adrian Sutil 1’15.217
22. Sakon Yamamoto 1’15.487
With track conditions proving challenging it was over four minutes before anyone ventured out on track in the second session, the first being Schumacher. A minute later came the predictable burst of activity.
This time Raikkonen tok over the top of the times, one tenth ahead of Hamilton, with Massa just as far behind the Briton. Alonso was three tenths down in fourth, just four thousandths faster than Robert Kubica.
The Pole’s car failure in morning practice would not cause him a grid penalty, and being so close to Alonso he did not feel the need to do another lap.
The slowest six before the final laps were Rubens Barrichello, Nico Rosberg, David Coulthard, Button, Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. They all went out for a final shot along with Webber, Nick Heidfeld, Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella and Liuzzi.
Fisichella and Liuzzi would lose their grip on the top ten in the final laps. Home contender Barrichello came close to getting into the final, but was knocked out by Trulli.
Barrichello nevertheless managed to get his Honda within five hundredths of a second of Heidfeld’s BMW in tenth. Trulli was over four tenths faster than Schumacher, who was squeezed out.
Bottom six drivers’ times for part two
11. Rubens Barrichello 1’12.932
12. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’12.968
13. Sebastian Vettel 1’13.058
14. Vitantonio Liuzzi 1’13.251
15. Ralf Schumacher 1’13.315
16. Jenson Button 1’13.469
Lewis Hamilton sat at the front of the queue to begin the final part of qualifying, with team mate Fernando Alonso behind him followed by the two Ferraris. Also making it through to the final ten were both BMWs and both Red Bulls, plus Rosberg’s Williams and Trulli’s Toyota.
As they came out on the track it looked like the first lap of the race as the McLarens and Ferraris cruises around two-by-two. Interestingly, both the McLarens elected to do their ‘fuel burn’ laps on the softer compound – possibly evaluating tyre wear on track temperatures that had dropped slightly to 57C by this stage in qualifying.
Unusually Ferrari pitted their drivers one lap earlier than McLaren to start their final laps. Alonso followed Hamilton so closely during the first laps that he had to wait briefly for his tyre change.
Raikkonen was the first driver around to set a time and he had to pass Hamilton on the way, who dodged out of the Ferrari’s path on the exit of Ferradura.
The Finn’s lap of 1’12.539 was instantly beaten by Massa whose 1’12.128 gave him provisional pole. Hamilton also beat Raikkonen with a 1’12.410. He was four tenths quicker than Alonso in the middle sector, and the Spaniard’s 1’12.984 left him fractionally behind Webber. When Alonso pitted for new tyres there were clear signs of graining.
Hamilton came out of the pits just ahead of Raikkonen once again, but as the Finn went past him the Ferrari twitched wide on the exit of Subida do Lago. Raikkonen nevertheless took second with a 1’12.322.
Massa continued to extend his advantage, setting a 1’11.931, which cemented pole position. Hamilton came very close to beating it, faster than everyone in the middle sector, but ended up second on 1’12.082.
Alonso, crucially, got himself free of Webber and very nerly beat Raikkonen to third with a 1’12.356.
Top ten drivers’ times for part three
1. Felipe Massa 1’11.931
2. Lewis Hamilton 1’12.082
3. Kimi Raikkonen 1’12.322
4. Fernando Alonso 1’12.356
5. Mark Webber 1’12.928
6. Nick Heidfeld 1’13.081
7. Robert Kubica 1’13.129
8. Jarno Trulli 1’13.195
9. David Coulthard 1’13.272
10. Nico Rosberg 1’13.477
Photos: Daimler | Lorenzo Bellanca / LAT Photographic | HondaRacingF1.com |
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