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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. @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…

  4. 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?

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

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

  6. @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.

  7. 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 :)

  8. @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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Hope that there`s dry today in Monza…Maybe we then can see brilliant overtakes by Hamilton and Kimi,also Kubica and Massa too…If it rains,every each one on the grid have possibility to win…For now it seems to come amazing race…Hope that all four championship contenders survive from first curves…

  12. It’s going to be dry tomorrow, even though fairly cold. Kimi is the quickest around here in dry conditions and will be loaded w/ fuel, perhaps 1-stopping. It will be very interesting. I think Kubica is very well positioned also. BMW is quick here and I like Robert to be on the podium.

  13. amy – so I guess it was cruel when williams did not win in silverstone this year, or bmw not winning at hockenheim? um, did you forget that Toro Rosso is also representing Italy?

  14. With qualifying at 8 AM here in the Eastern US, I picked the wrong GP to sleep through qualifying and not tape it for later viewing!!

    Good job by all the STR boys today- no matter how light they are on fuel or how much it rains, no team gets tow cars in the top 4 without some merit. Still unless it rains and a number of things go haywire, I don’t see either STR driver winning the race. In any event, great grid lineup, and It’s going to be a great GP.

  15. Keith and all:

    Would you agree with me in saying that the most exciting thing to forsee about tomorrow’s race will be the first chicane on the start? I expect some molto selvaggio action!

    Shall we begin taking bets on Spa 1998?

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