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)

  1. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th September 2008, 19:00

    Journeyer – It’s probably partly because so many people were on the live blog. We had almost 300 people on there and over 1,500 comments.

    Aussieleb – I see where you’re coming from, but a couple of things you should know:

    “Lewis Hamilton loving Englishman”? No, I’m not a die-hard Hamilton fan and, as I’ve pointed out on a few threads this weekend, when I think he’s done something wrong I write about it:

    Video: Pressure on Lewis Hamilton after error in French Grand Prix

    The qualifying write-up today isn’t terribly complimentary about him either.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I’ve only seen your name in the comments the last few days? In which case, based on the articles I’ve written supporting Hamilton over ‘Bus-stop-chicane-gate’, or whatever, I can see how you got a different impression. But I hate it when the FIA come out with one of their nonsense rulings and I was just as unimpressed with the stupid penalty Alonso got at Monza two years ago.

    Also, most people on this blog aren’t British, and I always keep that in mind while writing. British people usually make up the single largest demographic (though for a few days in July it was Poland) but that’s usually around a third of the audience. More audience stats here.

    I’ve always thought of this as an F1 blog, not a British F1 blog. And if you think I’ve been unfair about a driver or too kind to another, that’s what the comments are for :-)

  2. AussieLeb said on 13th September 2008, 19:35

    Keith – I honestly don’t think you are biased one way or the other, although I suspect Lewis is close to the top of your favourite driver list just as I am determined and passionate about Schumacher being the the best driver of all time. He won in different drives and in all conditions from most grid positions etc etc I think that’s why I am so anti Lewis. As a driver he has the talent to match Schumacher but as a half German, half Lebanese Australian it would be my greatest nightmare to see him do so, at the moment at least I think he is to “silver spoon” for me. Why couldn’t Jenson Button be more competitive, he is a much nicer Englishman, who I would have no problems admiring.

    Anyway, as for Spa, I will say that the rules are a too open ended, in that if you look at the overall incident and use the general ideal of sportsmanship it seems obvious to me that Lewis made a mistake on that overtaking attempt. I have said it before, all the drivers know each circuit too well for Lewis to be able to play the “he pushed me wide” card. The way the chicane is taken means Kimi didn’t move off the racing line. Subsequently Lewis cuts the chicane. Now obviously he didn’t do it on purpose, however he didn’t pay any real price for his mistake, in fact he gained an advantage, because he shouldn’t have been able to make the move at La Source. I understand your concern with the FIA and some of the vague rules in place but from an overall sporting perspective Lewis made a mistake which deserved a penalty. As for the severity, we know that once the decision was made to penalise him the stewards only had a couple of choices as to what the punishment could be, again due to a frustrating set of rules.
    At the end of the day I don’t think Lewis will win his appeal, assuming it’s even admissable. However I think all the teams should consider putting collective pressure onto the FIA to revise and with the unanimous support of the teams, change/revise these rules, especially in the light of the latest damaging decisions.
    I would hate to see you have to close down your blog because the F1 has disbanded….that would be horrible!

  3. ScuderiaToroFerrari4Eva said on 13th September 2008, 19:44

    I believe Vettel might regret signing for Red Bull becoz maybe toro rosso are on the up and if they keep up this form next season with KERS they could be title challengers thats how good they are my predictions for the race now wet1.Vettel 2.Bourdais 3.Sutil Dry 1.Vettel 2.Kovalinen 3.Bourdais mainly coz im a toro rosso guy but anythings possible toro rosso to get 4th place in constructors by end of the season watch this space!!!:D

  4. Back to qualifying…Im thinking Kovy is in the pound seats, as they say. I’m certain that the sugar water cars have dry tanks. Looking at where Massa is, that confirms the true difference between McL and Ferrari in equal wet conditions. The cars in between slipped in with low fuel. I don’t think Massa is in a good spot. Kimi and Lewis will be full of fuel and will have the luxury of jumping him in safety car periods and waiting for the Newey cars to pit.

    Im calling it now KOV,ALO,HEI,HAM,RAI,MAS,VET,KUB.

    As far as the Spa thing. Kudos for the Suzuka analysis. In my work we call that a clear precedent in controlling authority. Together with the FIA today admitting that the rule was not what they said it was at Spa, they are going to have a hard time defending this one. I notice that those in favor of the penalty are now resorting to general rules of sportsmanship and other types of convenient jus cogens to prop up a decision that, within the four corners of the rules, is justified neither by precedent nor the reasoning offered.

  5. Great, great quali today! Seeing Lewis and Kimi 15th and 14th makes me think of suzuka 2005. It is is minimally dry we will have a great race tomorrow, and then why not add a bit of water to the mix for the last 3 laps, just for even more fun?
    I would like to open two new subjects of debate.
    a) Lets assume Kimi and Lewis get past the first corner still 14th and 15th. Would/could Kimi use the great speed of his car to keep Lewis behind while refusing to overtake other people, thus stranding Lewis in the midfield until the first pit stop?
    b) Any bets on who qualified with a high and a low downforce set-up, which they more or less must carry for the race? A high downforce car will look very helpless in the eternal straights and would make very difficult defending the position. Why not have a BMW or a Toyota winning tomorrow? Qualifying with so much water, then possibly racing in dry conditions makes me think of a GP2 style inverted grid! I
    We will see a great race tomorrow, one way or the other.

  6. AN URGENT PLEA FOR HELP:

    I’ve discovered that I’ve no access to the Speed Channel (in the States), and my TVU player was freezing like crazy during qualy – can anyone suggest a better live feed?
    Many Thanks!

  7. Eric M. said on 13th September 2008, 21:05

    What the heck is up with Toro Rosso lately? It wasn’t so long ago that this team was known as MINARDI!!! Unbelievable how well they are doing right now. But good for them! Both Seb’s were fantastic today.

  8. http://www.safety-car.net usually shows the race live, but don’t look for it until minutes before the race starts, it won’t be there.

  9. Can’t wait to watch Kimi and Hamilton fight through the field!…but,I am rooting for Toro Rossos and the BMWs tomorrow.Theissen has to be thinking of a way to get Vettel back now.

    Now we will see if the kid can hold them off tomorrow.If it dries out,I wouldn’t bet on Vettel for podium.

  10. Cor dear, would you look at that photo?

    We remember when men were men and racing drivers were good-looking Italians like Giancarlo Fisichella…

  11. Amazing quali. Vettel looked good throughout and beat Kovi in fine style. Flash in the pan? Bourdais did a great job of beating the only Ferrari left in the field in Q3. The book says that Kovi should dominate tomorrow. But, if we don’t quite close our eyes, but just squint a little, a podium with Vettel and Webber 1 & 2 would be wonderful. A real breath of fresh air.

    Anyway, back to today – Kimi managed to set a fastest speed trap time 22kph faster than his team mate. Erm – wet weekend Kimi? Massa is WAY down the list infact. I know Massa doesn’t like the wet, but if tomorrow is just mildly moist and not torrential, he is going to get lapped by some seriously underpowered cars in a Ferrari at Monza.

    Something that bothered quite a few of us during the free practice blogs was the McLaren lack of running. Has that come home to roost with Hamilton’s performance today? Tis my guess. The ever confident Lewis might want to check himself in the trouser department tonight – suspect he’s running light, and I don’t mean fuel.

    Hats off to Minardi – I know, Scuderia Torro Rosso, but same engineers, cleaners and families – brilliant job today. FORZA MINARDI!

  12. solid job by Vettal! not sure if he has wet setup though, may hurt him tomorrow.

    Kimi should be ok, he started near the back at australia and was decent climbing up the field.

  13. @Jose:
    Answer to your question a: In P2 at more/less dry conditions fastest cars (top speeds) was HAM and KOV, so I don’t think that Kimi can slow down Hamilton for long.

    I’m not so impressed with pace of STR, they had nothing to loose so they probably used set up for wet conditions. If it is dry tomorrow they will suffer because of that…

  14. Macademianut said on 13th September 2008, 23:09

    In Q1, Alonso cut a corner and his lap was still counted. But, there’s no investigation on that. The commentators were talking about it as well when Q1 got done. Any insights?

  15. Macademianut said on 13th September 2008, 23:09

    and btw, that’s the last lap he did, which put him through for Q2.

  16. @Macademianut GP2 today stewards were noticably light handed. Pantano cut the first chicane 4 or 5 times and wasn’t censured. Ignoring the white line on pit exit they rightly picked him up on – he stole 200 metres – but took them 4 laps to issue it. Guessing the stewards are playing it very quiet this weekend, with guidence. Tough conditions.

    Expecting the same tomorrow. Maybe a little tighter – it is F1 – but not expecting any nonsense from off the track. Max is there and for all his faults, he wants a PR cruise when he is at the track.

  17. ScuderiaToroFerrari4Eva said on 13th September 2008, 23:26

    @Salty you are probably the best person whose commented on these stories so tommorow should be interesting if its a wet race i hope vettel wins and bourdias comes 2nd for a toro rosso 1 2 but it could be suzuka all over again or something completely different :)

  18. @ScuderiaToroFerrari4Eva A good story doesn’t always make the best prediction. But thank you.

    Was just reading Keith’s prediction for driver moves next year. He made it in April. Apart from Chandahok, he is spot on!

    Great site. No personal nonsense here, just good opinion. All down to Keith – great job.

  19. I hope Vettel gets a podium tomorrow, I hope Alonso does well and I want Massa to win. We need a Ferrari to win at their home GP, it would be too cruel for that not to happen and I think Massa has done more than enough to earn my respect this year, fantastic. Kimi tomorrow really needs to keep hamilton behind him for as long as possible whilst Massa gets to work on moving further up.

  20. Ben Goldberg said on 14th September 2008, 0:32

    So does anyone know what the chances of rain are for tomorrow? Cause obviously if it rains, Vettel will have a realistic chance of winning. Wet or dry, the race tomorrow promises to be a great one!

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