McLaren found themselves staring at an open goal in qualifying at Silverstone but it was Heikki Kovalainen who took pole position as Lewis Hamilton slumped to fourth after a mistake.
Joining Kovalainen on the front row is not a Ferrari but a Red Bull – Mark Webber driving an excellent lap to take second. Kimi Raikkonen shares the second row with Hamilton.
With rain threatening to fall all the drivers were out on the track within seconds of qualifying starting. Lewis Hamilton quickly took to the top of the times with a string of quick laps on hard tyres – before Kovalainen pipped him, also on harder tyres.
The battle for the bottom five quickly developed between the Toro Rossos, Force Indias, Hondas and Williams. Sebastian Vettel lifted himself well clear with an excellent lap of 1’20.318, enough to put him third behind the two McLarens. Bourdais only managed to get within a second of it.
A sprinkling of rain fell towards the end of the session and teams were divided on whether it was worth returning to the track. But Bourdais proved it was going out and setting the fastest time of all in the middle sector, lifting him to within 0.2s of Vettel’s time.
That left the Hondas and Force Indias in the bottom five, Giancarlo Fisichella spinning at Broklands on his last effort. Also eliminated was Nico Rosberg, Williams not sending the German driver out for a final lap due to a suspension problem, leaving him 18th.
Drivers eliminated in part one
16. Rubens Barrichello 1’21.512
17. Jenson Button 1’21.631
18. Nico Rosberg 1’21.668
19. Adrian Sutil 1’21.786
20. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’21.885
After the frenzy of the first session drivers took their time coming out for the seconds, four minutes passing before Fernando Alonso took to the track.
It was a McLaren one-two in the session once again but this time Hamilton was quicker. The surprise of the session was the performance of Ferrari, with Kimi Raikkonen ending the session sixth and Felipe Massa eighth.
Mark Webber valuted his Red Bull up to third in the dying stages ahead the the BMWs, with Nick Heidfeld right on team mate Robert Kubica’s pace.
Bout Coulthard was 0.4s down on his team mate and missed out on the top three by 0.06s. In the sister Toro Rosso team Vettel – rumoued to replace Coulthard next year – set a time 0.066s quicker than the British driver and made it in, while Bourdais was claimed by the drop zone. Also knocked out were Kazuki Nakajima and the Toyotas.
Drivers eliminated in part two
11. David Coulthard 1’20.174
12. Timo Glock 1’20.274
13. Sebastien Bourdais 1’20.531
14. Jarno Trulli 1’20.601
15. Kazuki Nakajima 1’21.112
With the weather looking more settled it was several minutes before the cars headed out for the final part of qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton looked set to displace Kimi Raikkonen for pole position but after being fastest in the firs two sectors he ran wide at Priory onto the gravel, losing time. He then seemed to compound that mistake by not coming straight into the pits – doing a slow extra lap and wasting some precious fuel.
On his final attempt he was fastest in the first sector – as he has often been this weekend – but lost time in the middle part of his lap with an over-steering moment at Abbey.
His 1’21.835 put him second behind Raikkonen begin with, but he was demoted first by Mark Webber and then by Heikki Kovalainen. Kovalainen’s 1’21.049 put him half a second clear of Webber.
Further back there were more surprises. Felipe Massa could only manage a 1’23.305 for ninth and couldn’t do another lap because of a problem with his rear wheel during his pit stop. Robert Kubica also had problems and didn’t set a time at all, leaving him tenth.
Top ten in part three
1. Heikki Kovalainen 1’21.049
2. Mark Webber 1’21.554
3. Kimi Raikkonen 1’21.706
4. Lewis Hamilton 1’21.835
5. Nick Heidfeld 1’21.873
6. Fernando Alonso 1’22.029
7. Nelson Piquet 1’22.491
8. Sebastian Vettel 1’23.251
9. Felipe Massa 1’23.303
10. Robert Kubica – no time