2008 British Grand Prix qualifying: First pole for Kovalainen as Hamilton stumbles

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes, Silverstone, qualifying, 2008, 470150

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.

Part one

Nico Rosberg, Silverstone, Williams-Toyota, qualifying, 2008, 470313

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

Part two

David Coulthard, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2008, qualifying, 470313

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

Part three

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Silverstone, qualifying, 2008, 470313

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

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104 comments on 2008 British Grand Prix qualifying: First pole for Kovalainen as Hamilton stumbles

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  1. zedray said on 5th July 2008, 14:22

    Simply put, 4 surprises made the day:

    Good ones:
    – Kovi
    – Webber

    Bad ones:
    – Massa
    – Kubica

  2. martinb said on 5th July 2008, 14:35

    Vettel and Massa are both 3 sec slower than their Q2 times. The others are 2 sec slower. Different strategies?

  3. Pedro Andrade said on 5th July 2008, 14:35

    What happened with Kubica? First it looked as though BMW were waiting for the best opportunity to let him out, and later the camera showed everybody rushing trying to put the wheels on the car. Did they actually get distracted? I’m not sure how far off the mark I am, but that was what it looked like for me.

  4. andy suridge said on 5th July 2008, 14:35

    Im glad mr “i hate england” didnt get pole

  5. Johnny said on 5th July 2008, 14:41

    Poor Hamilton, he actually looked sad after qualifying… :-/

  6. Internet said on 5th July 2008, 14:55

    From the comments on various forums and here, it seems people watch F1 to enjoy watching a driver fail, rather than enjoy a driver succeed.

    Still, a pretty rubbish qualifying run for Hamilton. 2nd is the best he can hope for tomorrow.

  7. Josh J said on 5th July 2008, 15:03

    wow, did you see hamilton’s face after quali – he did not look like a happy man at all. That spoke volumes!!! But yet again, a terrible mistake from Mclaren not bringing him straight in, how could they do that???? yet again they’re showing a total lack of any strategic control, they need a Ross Brawn badly – and if it was hamilton who vetoed the idea, then unfortunately yet again it shows just how much he still has to learn.

  8. Martin said on 5th July 2008, 15:08

    so all bets are off in the rain, but any thoughts? For my part: there will be plenty of action for anyone between Massa or Kubica and the podium, two very aggressive drivers – and of course if it’s enough rain, one looks out for Alonso -

  9. “Kimi Raikkonen shares the third row with Hamilton.”
    Keith, that should be the second row.

  10. Scott Joslin said on 5th July 2008, 15:53

    I have not had chance to read the live blog session back, but how on earth did Mclaren let him run another lap after his off?

    I don’t agree 2nd is the best place he can hope for, rain is what he needs and looks like he will get.

    I have been at the track the last two days and it is very noticeable that Lewis is pushing/forcing his car too much, and trying to chase the time out of the car, where Kovi is at one with it. Perhaps it is time for Lewis to stop looking spectacular and just being boringly quick!

    Also, by allowing Kovi to have 2 days testing last week at the circuit seems to have really paid off.

  11. Chalky said on 5th July 2008, 16:07

    If Webber beats Kovi off the line and he’s light on fuel, will it enable Coulthard (who should have a heavier fuel load) to get some decent points if the faster cars are held up behind Webber?
    That’d make it interesting.
    Mind you, will Webber keep it calm under the pressure of starting on the front row? Should be a great race.

  12. Rohan said on 5th July 2008, 16:11

    Josh, surely it should have been Hamilton’s decision whether or not to come in, irrespective of whether he received a call from his team?

    Pretty clear that both Webber and Heikki are light on fuel, the question now is just how light? I reckon Webber’s actually got more fuel than Heikki, so it could be interesting.

  13. Dorian G said on 5th July 2008, 16:58

    I think Kovalainen, Webber and Hamilton will be light on fuel (probably similar between all three).

    I believe Mclaren would have fuelled both cars light because a) that’s what they usually do and b) they desperately wanted one of their cars on pole (though I’m sure they were really hoping that be Hamilton).

    Whilst I think Webber put in a spectacular drive to slot in for second, I’m not convinced that it was the car’s raw pace. I think it was a sturdy mixture of Webber’s skill and a light fuel load.

    I suspect Raikonnen is a tad heavier for fuel than the other three as that is the usual plan. i.e. using Raikkonen’s strength for continued speed over the entire race.

    Whilst some have counted Hamilton out for a victory, I believe that both he and Raikkonen have an excellent chance for victory.

    I, however, will most definitely be in Raikkonen’s corner…

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th July 2008, 17:00

    De – ta, fixed it.

  15. spectre said on 5th July 2008, 17:03

    My guess is that Ferrari have a rain setup and a very conservative fuel strategy on their cars since the forecast for tomorrow was certain about rain at race time. But that alone can’t explain the difference between Massa and Kovalainen.

    I also have a feeling that Hamilton starting to get the same treatment as Schumacher got after being world champion for the fourth time. People (and that include journalists) openly enjoyed his mistakes, and even applauded when he had to retire from races. I really don’t know why Hamilton is almost there already, not even being a world champion.

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