Sebastian Vettel on pole as Massa leads title rivals (2008 Italian GP qualifying)

Vettel (right) will start from pole position with team mate Bourdais fourth

Vettel (right) will start from pole position with team mate Bourdais fourth

Sebastian Vettel starred in a thrilling wet-weather qualifying session at Monza to score his and Toro Rosso’s first ever pole position.

But the championship contenders had mixed fortunes with Felipe Massa starting sixth, Robert Kubica 11th, Kimi Raikkonen 14th and Lewis Hamilton 15th. It promises a thrilling race tomorrow.

Part one

With track conditions very wet all the drivers streamed out onto the circuit on the extreme wet-weather tyres. Apart from pit stops halfway through the session – where most drivers took on more fuel and many took a fresh set of extreme wets – all the drivers stayed on track through qualifying.

Apart from a brief spin by Nick Heidfeld at Parabolica, incidents were limited to occasional moments of chicane-cutting and few drivers even seemed to get in each others’ way.

And the expectations that some drivers would struggle and we’d see some unfamiliar names getting knocked out proved untrue – although Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso cut it close. Nelson Piquet Jnr failed to make it past Q1, and not for the first time this year.

But Giancarlo Fisichella brought Force India great cheer by getting into Q2 for the first time.

Bottom five drivers’ times for part one

16. Rubens Barrichello 1’36.510
17. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’36.630
18. Kazuki Nakajima 1’36.653
19. Jenson Button 1’37.006
20. Adrian Sutil 1’37.417

Part two

As the second part of qualifying began further rain began to fall and McLaren and Lewis Hamilton made a critical mistake. As everyone else hurried onto the track to set times as the circuit dried, Hamilton went out on wets rather than extreme wets, and lost precious time returning to the pits for extreme wet tyres. Was the decision spurred by him using two sets of extremes in Q1, unlike Kovalainen?

While that happened virtually everyone else was setting what would turn out to be their best times of the session on extreme wet tyres. Hamilton found himself outside the top ten, along with both Ferraris, David Coulthard and Giancarlo Fisichella.

A late, vital lap by Massa secured him the precious tenth place, knocking Robert Kubica back, and securing his passage into Q3. It will also have done much to assuage criticism of his driving in the wet at Silverstone.

But further back Raikkonen and Hamilton could not improve and, in a shock twist, were knocked out. Both, along with Kubica, spun their cars at Ascari trying to make the top ten.

Sebastian Vettel ended Q2 with the quickest time ahead of Kovalainen.

Bottom five drivers’ times for part two

11. Robert Kubica 1’36.697
12. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’36.698
13. David Coulthard 1’37.284
14. Kimi Raikkonen 1’37.522
15. Lewis Hamilton 1’39.265

Part three

The rain increased throughout the final part of qualifying but there were some enormously impressive late laps from drivers even as the conditions got worse.

Kovalainen headed the times sheets to begin with but he couldn’t hold back the inspired Vettel, who put his Toro Rosso top with a 1’37.555. Kovalainen improved on the final lap but was 0.08s off beating Vettel.

It was a brilliant day for the Red Bull teams as Mark Webber took third with one of the last laps of the session, ahead of Sebastien Bourdais. Another last-lap wonder was Massa, who managed to improve to take sixth.

Nico Rosberg gave Williams their best qualifying position of the year with an excellent fifth.

Top ten drivers’ times for part three

1. Sebastian Vettel 1’37.555
2. Heikki Kovalainen 1’1’37.631
3. Mark Webber 1’38.117
4. Sebastien Bourdais 1’38.445
5. Nico Rosberg 1’38.767
6. Felipe Massa 1’38.894
7. Jarno Trulli 1’39.152
8. Fernando Alonso 1’39.751
9. Timo Glock 1’39.767
10. Nick Heidfeld 1’39.906

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54 comments on Sebastian Vettel on pole as Massa leads title rivals (2008 Italian GP qualifying)

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  1. I am Very happy for Vettel

  2. Pedro Andrade said on 13th September 2008, 14:26

    More and more I get the feeling that Vettel is as good as Hamilton and Kubica.

  3. beneboy said on 13th September 2008, 14:32

    Most entertaining quali in ages.

    Vettel really showed some class being near the top in each session and getting the pole in tricky conditions.
    I hope he can make the most of it in the race.

    Amazing performance from Red Bull/Torro Rosso, 3 of the top 4 positions – shame Coulthard couldn’t join the party.

    Hopefully we’ll see some good racing tomorrow with three top quality drivers having to fight their way up from mid-grid positions.

  4. Vettel was absolutely STUNNING out there, it’s a great moment for the Faenza based team who nobody can deny any glory that comes to them. Kudos also to Bourdais to make it onto the 2nd row. It doesn’t matter what happens in the race tomorrow they’ve taken their part in history, not only in result, but they’ve beaten the traditional Works Scuderia on home grounds.

    Hamilton was surprising given this seasons rain performances. Having said that, Hamilton and Mclaren made quite a few mistakes this time last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised, either way, that history will repeat itself. They might show desperation yet again and overcook it.

    It’ll be interesting to see Kimi vs Lewis, and Massa vs Kovy – the championship is at stakes at opposing ends, but neither Fins subscribing to play 2nd fiddle.

    Here’s to a great race tomorrow!

  5. Shahriar said on 13th September 2008, 14:46

    Its gonna be a gr8 race tommorrow… Some strong guys will be fighting from the middle area of the field…
    Mclaren really luk gud in wets… And Vettel, yup he was indeed great… at last ferrari, they do look bad in rain…
    What is the matter with “getting the heat into the front tyres of ferrari?”

  6. ScuderiaToroFerrari4Eva said on 13th September 2008, 14:49

    I was so emotional when vettel put it on pole i cant tell you how happy i was i knew this kid had talent and this toro rosso is proving to be quite a car hopefully tommorow he wins good qualifying by bourdais awell sebastien vettel is number 1 and im pleased hamilton will have to start low will see what his really made of

  7. Great pole by Vettel, brilliant grid set up for tomorrow’s race. Let’s see what he can do from the front!

  8. Vettel is weak. He was lucky with setup, that’s all. I don’t see him in my top drivers list.
    Make it dry tomorrow an we all gonna see brilliant racing.

  9. SkinBintin said on 13th September 2008, 15:34

    Amazing performance from Vettel. I wish all the luck in the world in his attempt to score his and Torro Rosso’s first win tomorrow. Another great part of the GP is sure to be watching the likes of Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica and Massa fighting their way forward from mid grid positions. I could just see Raikkonen potentially doing well despite his qualifying performance, and with a bit of luck Hamilton too… It would certainly silence some of his critics is he can.

  10. Fergus Gallas said on 13th September 2008, 15:50

    Vettel did a wonderful job as did Webber and Bourdais, but it seems to me that the top 4 drivers are light, very light.

  11. one of the commentators on ITV stated how chewed the set of extremes was on Hamiltons pitstop during Q3, and they only have 3 sets of them for the weekend. Hence, he’s already gone through 2 sets of wet tyres, one new set remains, and one set is useable as a scrubbed set for the race.

    well done to Massa for getting through in the wet, and well done to Vettel, seeing the minardi mechanics praying and then cheering will make me smile for a while to come yet.

    the look on Webbers face during the conference was classic too, its like he was thinking “damn, he’s in the SAME car as me next year”

  12. I’m just wondering: Where are Hamilton wet-driving-awsome-balls right now? :-)

  13. probably in james allens mouth as usual.

  14. AussieLeb said on 13th September 2008, 16:57

    Is it just me or is it rather quiet on the F1Fanatic blog? Did Lewis lose his cool in the wet or something and fail to make the cut? Oh well at least he can still vent his frustration off the start since he’s lining up next to the less ballsy Kimi! I think this weekend speaks volumes on the lack of guile of one Lewis Hamilton. All I hope now is that Kimi takes one for the team and races Lewis out of the race for not just Massa’s sake but Vettel and the rest of the talented drivers out there. I have never been and never will be a fan of that arrogant little twat! What sort of tool needs his Dad at every race watching over everyone like one of those psychotic Football or worse Rugby Dad/Coach’s!
    Disclaimer and Notes:
    If Lewis Hamilton wins tommorrow then I take everything back!!! If Massa crashes out then it must have been McLaren’s fault! It is not because Lewis is black that I don’t like him. I’m only looking for a few bites!

  15. f1freak said on 13th September 2008, 17:18

    really great job by vettel and the STR team they will really miss him next year… once again they proved they are better then RB…

    webber will be a bit worried abt vetel next year…

    hamilton messed it up this time…again wrong decision can cost him alot…i think he went for inters on 2nd quali…

    not sure whats up with kubica and kimi…

    i think ferrai might be eyeing vettel for 2011…it would be great vettel vs ham….but thats really far ahead…

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