Lewis Hamilton will start the first race of 2008 from pole position after an exciting qualifying session in Melbourne.
Robert Kubica will join him on the front row and the Ferraris will start 4th and 16th after Kimi Raikkonen ran into trouble in the first part of the session.
The biggest story in the first part of qualifying was Kimi Raikkonen’s car problem which left the Finn crawling into the pits after he completed his first lap. He also held up Robert Kubica and might have been subject to a penalty but his car failure proved terminal.
It was even worse for Nelson Piquet Jnr who will start his first F1 race from 21st, in between the two Super Aguris, Takuma Sato ahead of Anthony Davidson. The other three drivers to be knocked out were Sebastien Bourdais (another rookie), and the two Force Indias of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil, after the team had predicted they would reach the second part of qualifying. Both Hondas made it through.
Bottom six drivers’ times for part one
17. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’27.207
18. Sebastien Bourdais 1’27.446
19. Adrian Sutil 1’27.859
20. Takuma Sato 1’28.208
21. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’28.330
22. Anthony Davidson 1’29.059
The second part of qualifying was stopped early on after Mark Webber crashed at turn six. This compromised several drivers who were already doing laps, and when the session re-started with eight minutes to go only David Coulthard and Sebastian Vettel had set times.
After the brief hiatus Felipe Massa set the fastest time but Robert Kubica quickly took 0.3s off him, then Lewis Hamilton lowered the mark by another 0.2s, with a 1’25.187, the quickest lap of the weekend thus far.
But his former team mate ran into trouble – Fernando Alonso left his single lap of the session until right at the end, and missed out on the top ten by 0.024s.
Also out (along with Raikkonen and Webber) were both Hondas and Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams.
Bottom six drivers’ times for part two
11. Rubens Barrichello 1’26.173
12. Fernando Alonso 1’26.188
13. Jenson Button 1’26.269
14. Kazuki Nakajima 1’26.413K15.
15. Mark Webber no time
16. Kimi Raikkonen no time
That left a shoot-out for pole between both McLarens, BMWs and Toyotas, plus Vettel, Coulthard, Massa and Nico Rosberg.
The leading drivers took two shots at qualifying but Vettel declined to set a time, preferring to save fuel instead. Lewis Hamilton was quickest first time out, ahead of Massa and Kovalainen.
But on the final run it was Robert Kubica who snatched provisional pole despite a lurid slide through the gravel at turn 12. Hamilton came back with a clean lap to take first place back by just under 0.2s.
Massa aborted his final run and had to settle for fourth behind Kovalainen.
Top ten drivers’ times for part three
1. Lewis Hamilton 1’26.714
2. Robert Kubica 1’26.869
3. Heikki Kovalainen 1’27.079
4. Felipe Massa 1’27.178
5. Nick Heidfeld 1’27.236
6. Jarno Trulli 1’28.527
7. Nico Rosberg 1’28.687
8. David Coulthard 1’29.041
9. Timo Glock 1’29.593
10. Sebastian Vettel no time