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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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. 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…

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. “It was a joint decision to go out on wet-weather tyres at the start of Q2”

    Gotta love how Lewis is so good at sharing the blame if anything goes wrong. Yet again it’s not him at fault, it’s always the “team”.

  7. Torro Rosso surely rolled the dice with more downforce but that’s something to applaud them for and the drivers that brought it off. The risk/gain equation is different for them. I don’t think Webber would have run high downforce because they have shown up as conservative all year. I loved Webber’s last lap, one of the best I’ve seen. Massa deserves applause too because I figure Ferrari is running less wing owing to Kimi’s performance and me thinking they don’t split set up strategies as much as McLaren. I would predict Massa if it dries and if he could concentrate all the way… but. Kovy hasn’t been blow-up-proof either lately. A really open race, in mixed conditions watch for Alonso and Trulli and Heidfeld. My fingers are crossed for Webber.

  8. Great Quali… awesome to watch.

    I loved the fact that in the lead up the to weekend Hamilton said other drivers (ie Kimi) dont have the balls in tricky conditions and he (Lewis) is excellent.. then when it rains in Quali, he is 15th!!! I think the kid needs to shut his mouth and just drive.. cause when stuff like this happens, its embarrassing and he loses credibility massively. Dont get me wrong, I think he’s a great driver, but not sure why he needs to talk the trash he does when other drivers just get about their own business.

    Well done Vettel and it looks like that Torro Rosso has a bit of pace in the wet with the other Seb right up there too.

    Im just a bit concerned about the first corner.. lets keep it clean guys!

  9. I’m not even going to venture a guess about who wins until after that first chicane. The FIA may wish that they still allowed backup cars after this corner.

    If I’m a race engineer, I would elect to start from the pits. Seriously: it’s going to be impossible to see for everyone behind the first row, and there’s a good chance for a safety car period or even a red flag after that first chicane.

  10. HEAR HEAR SALTY!, considering Keith hardly makes money off the site, being more of a hobby (a hobby that borders on autism) its one hell of an acheivement to being the fav site of many of us !

    and the fact he has to put up with idiots like me as well is doubly impressive.

  11. Well, it’s been not dry in GP2.

    Chicanes right now are a joke, they should put gravel or grass back in them. They may be safer, but turn competition errors into advantages. Putting aside the Lewis affair, Bruno Senna skipped like 3 times in a row the first chicane, letting pass Di Grassi throught the Curva Grande. The third time imo provoked the crash of Di Grassi, giving him a drive through.

  12. – “lucky with setup”? I don’t think so. Vettel was the second fastest car in a straight line which suggests to me he’s more geared towards dry weather conditions.

  13. Just as well it’s gonna rain today, ‘cos I have a feeling there are gonna be fireworks at that first corner !

    Hold onto your hats guys, I think we are going to be in for a wild ride.

  14. @dmw – Kudos to you my friend for your subtle jibe! However since when is precedent the only other parameter for validating an opinion? I think my reasoning is very reasonable “within the four corners” of sportsmanship and not general in the least. I won’t be drawn into further debate as to the validity of my argument, unless of course you present your own that doesn’t involve dissecting mine i.e. stick to the events surrounding the incident. I based my opinion on what I saw, I don’t know the rules, however as I have said before, I thought that there was something not kosher about that move Lewis pulled, from the moment he made it. At the time he paid no price for running off the track and in fact gained a better run into La Source and hence I believe he deserved some kind of penalty. If it fell under Claus XYZ or Claus ABC(1) or whatever is not my concern. In closing, I have also stated that the penalty may have been a little harsh and hence I would not be against a review and clarification of said rules and regs. Until and even after that time, that and any other penalty should stand. All the teams know the rules and agree to participate, if they don’t like them……there’s the door!

    Oh and one other thing dmw, I would be very surprised if the appeal will even be heard. So in terms of having trouble defending themselves, I don’t think they will even need to.

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