2008 French GP qualifying: Raikkonen storms to Ferrari’s 200th pole position

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Magny-Cours, 2008, 2, 470150

Ferrari were in crushing form at Magny-Cours and annexed the front row of the grid with little difficulty, Kimi Raikkonen leading Felipe Massa.

It was Ferrari’s 200th pole position at a circuit where they’ve enjoyed great success in recent years.

Lewis Hamilton, in what is expected to be a lightly-fuelled McLaren, was unable to beat the Ferraris and will start 13th tomorrow following penalty for his crash in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Part one

The revised Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3s gave Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais a boost and the pair were both able to make it past Q3.

That was a blow for Honda, who found both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello unable to beat anyone but the Force Indias.

Williams were also in dire straits, Kazuki Nakajima being the fifth driver to be eliminated, taking 16th. Team mate Nico Rosberg progressed to the second part of qualifying in his place, which seemed to make little sense for the team as the German driver also has a ten-place penalty for the same misdemeanour.

BMW were the last team to send their drivers out on track and suffered a scare as Nick Heidfeld struggled to progress beyond 18th. A late flying lap on soft tyres secured him passage to Q2.

Drivers knocked out in part one:

16. Kazuki Nakajima 1’16.243
17. Jenson Button 1’16.306
18. Rubens Barrichello 1’16.330
19. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’16.971
20. Adrian Sutil 1’17.053

Part two

Rosberg only set a time good enough for 15th in the second part of qualifying, guaranteeing him a demotion to the back of the grid. That raised questions why the team bothered to send him out in the first part of qualifying at all, which might at least have helped his team mate.

The Toro Rossos also got no further and took 13th and 14th. But the speed of the Toyotas and Red Bulls caused more problems for BMW and it was Heidfeld who lost out again.

The German driver had had a special test at the Circuit de Catalunya last week to try and get on top of the problems he’s had warming his tyres up. But it seemed not to help and he found himself 12th.

Nelson Piquet Jnr leapt into the top ten with seconds to spare but a last-gasp lap from David Coulthard knocked him back out again.

Drivers knocked out in part two

11. Nelson Piquet 1’15.848
12. Nick Heidfeld 1’16.006
13. Sebastian Vettel 1’15.918
14. Sebastien Bourdais 1’16.045
15. Nico Rosberg 1’16.235

Part one

McLaren made it no secret that, with Hamilton facing a ten-place grid drop, they were going to run his car as light as they dared in a bid to snatch pole position from Ferrari.

But their plan went wrong on Hamilton’s first lap, when he ran wide at the Nurburgring chicane, posting a time that was only good enough for seventh.

He wasn’t the only driver to go off – Jarno Trulli had a spin halfway around the 180 corner.

Ferrari looked totally serene and Raikkonen and Massa both banged in 1’16.4 laps with little drama. Massa said he’d over-driven his second lap, losing pole by 0.041s.

Hamilton’s second effort got him up to third (despite another, smaller, mistake at the same corner) but he’ll lost that to Fernando Alonso. Heikki Kovalainen will start behind Alonso and Trulli. Kubica’s seventh will become sixth after Hamilton’s penalty but it’s still his worst starting position of the year.

The same goes for Hamilton, who faces a long afternoon’s work trying to climb through the field from 13th to minimise the damage to his championship hopes.

Top ten in part three:

1. Kimi Raikkonen 1’16.449
2. Felipe Massa 1’16.490
3. Lewis Hamilton 1’16.693
4. Fernando Alonso 1’16.840
5. Jarno Trulli 1’16.920
6. Heikki Kovalainen 1’16.944
7. Robert Kubica 1’17.037
8. Mark Webber 1’17.233
9. David Coulthard 1’17.426
10. Timo Glock 1’17.596

Expected starting grid after penalties:

1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Felipe Massa
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Jarno Trulli
5. Heikki Kovalainen
6. Robert Kubica
7. Mark Webber
8. David Coulthard
9. Timo Glock
10. Nelson Piquet
11. Nick Heidfeld
12. Sebastian Vettel
13. Lewis Hamilton
14. Sebastien Bourdais
15. Kazuki Nakajima
16. Jenson Button
17. Rubens Barrichello
18. Giancarlo Fisichella
19. Adrian Sutil
20. Nico Rosberg

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11 comments on 2008 French GP qualifying: Raikkonen storms to Ferrari’s 200th pole position

  1. M Smith said on 21st June 2008, 15:30

    I did not expect the BMWs to be so weak in France. The Renault of Alonso is just blistering out there, supreme driving from the Spaniard yet again.
    The Toyotas are suprisingly strong, and the Red Bull’s are doing well here – Toro Rosso isn’t so bad either, being ahead of the Williams is a great achievement.

    Honda are by far the losers so far, Jenson managed to score a single point here last year, that looks unlikely this time around.

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2008, 15:42

    You and me both – I didn’t expect them to be up with the Ferraris and McLarens every weekend, but behind the Toyotas, Rebulls and a Renault? That’s a surprise.

  3. Sush said on 21st June 2008, 15:59

    I said this yesterday, sorry to repeat myself.

    but Kubica was saying over the team radio the tyres were graining on the first lap, and by the third lap was almost undriveable. So BMW look in big trouble tomorrow.

  4. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2008, 16:10

    Yeah I remember – thought it was just Friday graining.

  5. Sush said on 21st June 2008, 16:18

    you think they have got over that problem?, judging by the lap times it looks like they still have problems.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st June 2008, 16:20

    Well no, it looks like it’s still a problem for them. Although Heidfeld’s been struggling in qualifying all year and it’s not the first time he’s failed to make Q3.

  7. Architrion said on 21st June 2008, 16:26

    Brad Spurgeon have just said that Kovy has been given a penalty of 5-spot penalty on the grid because of a too slow out-lap blocking Webber… Not a good day at all for McLaren

  8. Lady Snowcat said on 21st June 2008, 17:34

    The Renault must be pretty good here…

    Junior came 11th…

  9. “It was quite a disappointing qualifying for us and for me. I have to apologise to the team because I didn’t do a great job at all. On my first and second lap I made the same mistake on the exit of Turn 7.”

    This is what Ham said. Probably the team are getting fed up with the mistakes and apologies, as they are loosing money because of the lost points. By now they could be thinking that Alonso was a better bet for this season than Hamilton, and start to regret the mistakes of last year.

    Dangerous stuff if they get demoralized.

  10. F1Fan said on 22nd June 2008, 3:00

    Anyone else get the impression that Massa is heavier than Kimi ? He was consistently quicker in Q1 and Q2 by about 1.5-2 tenths and given that he has been out-qualifying Kimi this year, I am getting the sense he is heavier by 1-2 laps. Kimi’s exit to the pits during his final lap makes me think he wants conserve as much fuel as he can, perhaps knowing he is lighter.

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