Hamilton leads McLaren one-two (European Grand Prix qualifying)

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton with Heikki Kovalainen and Rubens Barrichello

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton with Heikki Kovalainen and Rubens Barrichello

McLaren locked out the front row of the grid for the European Grand Prix at Valencia with Lewis Hamilton leading Heikki Kovalainen.

But it could have been the other way around if Kovalainen hadn’t blown his final shot at a lap.

And it was bad news for Ferrari’s Luca Badoer, who starts tomorrow’s race from last on the grid having been 1.5s slower than everyone else.

Q1

Brawn looked to have rediscovered their former pace in practice – which was at least partly thanks to the hot temperatures at Valencia. Qualifying began under clear skies with track temperatures in the mid-40s.

Heikki Kovalainen went fastest to begin with, using the long wheelbase version of the MP4/24 which was theoretically 0.2s slower per lap than Lewis Hamilton’s new short wheelbase version. Hamilton took until halfway through the session to do his first lap, and when he did he briefly went quickest of all, with a 1’39.198.

But he was immediately pegged back by Rubens Barrichello, whose 1’39.019 was further proof of Brawn’s return to front-running pace.

At the opposite end of the grid newcomers Romain Grosjean (Renault) and Luca Badoer (Ferrari) were trying to avoid being eliminated in the first session. Badoer’s struggle from practice continued – he was 19th and 1.8s down on Raikkonen’s best effort with five minutes remaining. Grosjean, however, posted a 1’39.322 just one minute after Alonso had done a 1’39.603.

As the session drew to a close there were some surprising names hovering around the drop zone – Jenson Button was 15th and Mark Webber 16th. But Kazuki Nakajima in 13th stopped on the track, leaving him highly vulnerable to dropping out of qualifying. Sure enough, as Webber and Button improved, Nakajima was squeezed out of qualifying.

While Sebastien Buemi made a late leap to third place, team mate Alguersuari was eliminated and takes up the back row of the grid along with Badoer. Jarno Trulli’s Toyota was also knocked out while team mate Timo Glock scraped through. Nakajima and Fisichella were the other two drivers that failed to reach Q2.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India-Mercedes – 1’39.531
17. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams-Toyota – 1’39.795
18. Jarno Trulli, Toyota – 1’39.807
19. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1’39.925
20. Luca Badoer, Ferrari – 1’41.413

Q2

The McLaren-Brawn battle at the top of the times continued in Q2, with the Red Bulls struggling to get a look in. Hamilton took up the early running ahead of Barrichello and Kovalainen.

As in the first session, Alonso waited a long time to set his first lap – leaving the pits for the first time with just six minutes left on the clock. His first effort – a 1’38.853 – was not quick enough to get him in the top ten, leaving him 11th and 0.2s faster than Grosjean.

Lewis Hamilton elected not to join the rush to set a final lap time at the end of the session, sitting on top of the times with a 1’38.182 and saving a set of super-soft tyres that would come in handy later. The only driver to beat his time was Barrichello, improving on it by one tenth of a second.

The difference between reaching Q3 and missing out was razor-thin. Fernando Alonso made a late improvement to grab eighth, but was only one tenth quicker than Nick Heidfeld, 11th. Just 0.04s separated Heidfeld from Raikkonen, who scraped into Q3. Also knocked out were Sutil, Glock, Grosjean and Buemi.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11. Nick Heidfeld, BMW – 1’38.826
12. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes – 1’38.846
13. Timo Glock, Toyota – 1’38.991
14. Romain Grosjean, Renault – 1’39.040
15. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1’39.514

Q3

Lewis Hamilton went straight back to the top of the times with his first lap, his 1’39.498 putting him half a second clear of Jenson Button, using new super-soft tyres.

Webber, Vettel and Barrichello all opted to do a single lap each. Barrichello’s first effort gave him second – but only until Kovalainen came through and took the place off him, 0.03s slower than team mate Hamilton.

Kovalainen carried on for a second lap and nailed the first two sectors, quicker than anyone else. But he took too much kerb in the bend approaching the final corner and ran wide. That mistake cost him what looked set to be a pole-winning lap, although Hamilton was on course to set a better time, but aborted once the Kovalainen threat was gone.

Tomorrow the championship battle will be played out behind the McLarens – with Webber down in ninth place and facing a challenge to get ahead of Button.

Update: Fuel weights published – Strategy could hand Barrichello an advantage (European Grand Prix fuel weights)

Top ten drivers in Q3

1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes – 1’39.498
2. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes – 1’39.532
3. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn-Mercedes – 1’39.563
4. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault – 1’39.789
5. Jenson Button, Brawn-Mercedes – 1’39.821
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1’40.144
7. Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota – 1’40.185
8. Fernando Alonso, Renault – 1’40.236
9. Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault – 1’40.239
10. Robert Kubica, BMW – 1’40.512

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93 comments on Hamilton leads McLaren one-two (European Grand Prix qualifying)

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  1. Prisoner Monkeys said on 22nd August 2009, 14:21

    Hamilton on Pole. Nuts to that. The less races he wins, the better, IMHO.

    Anyway, the important thing is that Button is ahead of Webber. And while he’s behind Vettel, Vettel has the dirty side of the grid on a circuit notorious for being dusty off-line.

    Pretty impressive performance by Grosjean as well.

    • Pirate John said on 22nd August 2009, 14:38

      Pretty impressive performance by Grosjean as well.

      Gimme a break will you?
      Impressive? You get impressed easily man.

      On Q1 he was 14th. If Ferrari had a real pilot, he would have been 15th. If Nakajima had not retired and made another flying lap, he would have felt in Q1.

      Let’s take it easy…

      • Ned Flanders said on 22nd August 2009, 14:42

        Mabye, but to be fair he’s just equalled Piquet’s usual performance in his first time in the 09 Renault (I think) on a track he’s never driven in an F1 car, so he deserves some credit

        • Patrickl said on 22nd August 2009, 14:57

          Actually Piquet didn’t even make it into Q2 and he was even 6 tenths (if not a full second) slower than Alonso.

          So Grosjean makes it into Q2 and he’s only 3 tenths off the pace from Alonso. That might not be all that impressive, but for a rookie in his first event I’d say it is impressive.

          • mp4-19b said on 22nd August 2009, 15:06

            Wondering where Piquet is? how he must be feeling? Its good to see a frenchman at the wheel of a renault after all these years. hope he’s as good as Rene Arnoux.

          • Hakka said on 22nd August 2009, 15:23

            Actually Piquet didn’t even make it into Q2

            Yeah, and Pirate John already addressed that by pointing out that Grosjean would have have missed out on Q2 as well if Ferrari had a reasonable driver and Nakajima hadn’t retired (qualy retirements are pretty rare, so it’s a valid conditional). So using the Q2 parameter as a comparison with Piquet’s performance is not quite indicative.

            Your other point is valid, but it’s not clear whether your statement regarding Piquet being down by 6/10 from Alonso is an average, or if it is from his first few races from his first season.

            Personally, I think everyone is in a hurry to judge one way or the other when it might be better to wait and see a few more weekends and qualifying performances.

          • Patrickl said on 22nd August 2009, 16:53

            Well the kid got into Q2. Piquet had the good fortune of others failing too and often still he didn’t get into Q1.

            Actually Piquet was on average 6/10s behind Alonso AND it was the difference between Alonso and Piquet in Q1 at Melbourne. In Q2 Alonso goes even 4/10 faster. If you take into consideration that Alonso is not going flat out in Q1 the Piquet was even 8/10 slower on average.

            Apart from Spain (where Alonso had a very poor Q2, but made up for it in Q3) and Q2 in Germany (where rain obviously influenced things) Piquet was between half a second and a full second slower than Alonso in Qualifying.

            So 3/10s for Grosjean is already 2/10s better than Piquet realisticly did during the whole season.

            I guess it indeed is too soon to tell, but seriously, he just gets into the car and he is closer to Alonso than Piquet ever was. That is impressive on it’s own.

            Look at Alguersuare and Badoer for other “rookies” entering in F1.

            Or hear Piquet crying how he had only a few thousand test kilometers. Grosjean had 0!

          • Hakka said on 22nd August 2009, 17:25

            @Patrickl,

            You’re right, thanks a lot for looking up the numbers, and arguing from them – they do demonstrate that Grosjean has had a better start than Piquet’s start and average.

            I still think his Q2 shouldn’t be blown out of proportion this time around. If he repeats it, that’ll be great and then we can sing his praises for it. But yeah, the numbers alone are good enough to argue that he’s better than Piquet so far.

    • S Hughes said on 22nd August 2009, 15:09

      Bitter much?

  2. TommyB said on 22nd August 2009, 14:22

    Badoer shouldn’t be racing. They should give him a private “test session” that he wants. Then let everyone else get on with racing properly.

    Nice to see Hamilton back on top. Very surprised Vettel got ahead of Button but he won’t stay there. Vettels had poor starts all year and he’s on the dirty side. Raikonnen will probably crash into him again too.

    It is going to be strange to see the KERS cars out in front rather than making loads of places up at the start. Won’t be too interesting. Hopefully we’ll get an average race though.

  3. I think what is really shocking is that Badoer is almost 1 second off the pass of Kubica’s fuelled up run to 10th.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Badoer finish 4 or 5 laps down by the end of the race come tomorrow.

  4. alphaa said on 22nd August 2009, 14:25

    It’s great to see Lewis again on the front line! He is back!!!!

  5. alphaa said on 22nd August 2009, 14:28

    Actually, i really want to see how the McLaren Kers car start tomorrow at the front line. We haven’t yet seen them do that. Not sure will they pull away a huge gap immediately.

    McLaren did such a great job. They truly deserve it.

  6. Fun qualifying session, nice job by Grosjean.

    And great they fitted Hamilton’s car with the High quality on board camera for this race, it looks amazing. I still don’t see why they don’t simply replace all camera’s to these ones, it could’t possibly be that great an expense for FOM.

    Badoer’s performance is pretty shocking. It’s very cute of Ferrari to give him a race drive in a Ferrari after all these years, but it’s an embarassement. :/

    I agree with Brundle, it would have been more fun if Piquet were driving Massa’s Ferrari, or Bourdais for that matter.

    • Ned Flanders said on 22nd August 2009, 14:39

      I don’t know how much money HD cameras for all the cars would cost, but I’m sure Bernie Ecclestone could afford it if he wasn’t so tight

  7. KAM_Spain said on 22nd August 2009, 14:34

    What the hell has happened to Toyota, its the same old story year after year, a few glimmers of speed at the start of the seaon and then they just fall off a cliff (and they have the largest budget of any team) i think for sure they will be following BMW out of F1, not one top driver wants to move to Toyota becuase they are just showing themselves as a poor F1 team, poor old Jarno Trulli looked like he was about to start shouting as soon as he was out sight from the Cameras.

    • Max should resign now!!! said on 22nd August 2009, 15:06

      Trulli looked like he was about to start shouting as soon as he was out sight from the Cameras.

      Jarno will be dropped for next season so it could in part because of that.

  8. Mr Soap said on 22nd August 2009, 14:35

    Happy with that result.

    I’d like to single out a big thank you to Vettel, for causing a long line of white dust on the track, and in so doing providing some variety in what the track looks like.

    • Hahaha, so true.

      When I caught some of Free Practise 2 yesterday I marvelled at the continuous blandness of the place and the laps felt nothing short of eternal.

      The pit lane is the only thing that gives the place the slightest hint of character, so this track is going to be even more boring when refuelling is banned next year.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd August 2009, 17:28

        Just watched the (refuelling-free) GP2 feature race which had a decent scrap for the lead.

        I can’t wait for them to get rid of refuelling in F1, it makes race far less interesting and exciting in my experience.

    • Chris Monk said on 22nd August 2009, 14:40

      lol

      I have to agree

      they have such a good location here it seems as if they have activly tried to make it look hiddious.

    • Ned Flanders said on 22nd August 2009, 14:46

      Actually I think Valencia looks OK, the red and yellow kerbs and blue walls at least give it some colour

      • Patrickl said on 22nd August 2009, 14:53

        Yeah, the shots from the camera overlooking the water and the drive across the bridge actually look quite nice.

        Besides, who doesn’t love cranes? I hear they are better than (spanish) women in many respects :)

        • mp4-19b said on 22nd August 2009, 15:01

          i think the problem with valencia, especially for the television audience is that the track camera’s are positioned at the wrong places. We get to see more of concrete walls than the stands, the spectators & the bikini clad gals ;) i seriously think that FIA officials must relocate some of the track camera’s to more viewer appealing location.

      • Agreed, but it’d be great to see the barriers in the three different sectors painted different colours – maybe red, yellow and blue for sectors 1, 2 and 3. The the really distinctive parts of the track are only the bridge and pit straight.

    • I thought after the last race if your car had had it and was a danger to others you were supposed to park it straight away instead of trying to get back to the pits, or does dropping oil all over the track not count?

  9. StEve said on 22nd August 2009, 14:46

    Great to see the silver cars back at the front, could be a bore fest tomorrow though! Rain/Safety cars please.

    • Ned Flanders said on 22nd August 2009, 17:14

      Unfortunately, rain tomorow is about as likely as rain in Bahrain and there are only ever 1 or 2 retirements per race these days, so a safety car will probably depend on a crash. There hasn’t been a safety car for almost 6 races, since the pile up at the start at the Spanish GP. That shows how dull this season has become

      • StEve said on 22nd August 2009, 17:20

        I have to hope thoug. Much as i want Hamilton to win, i would prefer if he could be worked hard in doing so. such is the improvement of his car, that I think he may have a walk in the park tomorrow.

  10. Patrickl said on 22nd August 2009, 14:50

    Now we wait for the fuel loads to really know which driver actually put in a good performance.

    Force India really didn’t improve by 7 tenths as the hyped upgrade was promised to bring. Granted, they were slightly less worse than at Hungary though.

  11. Net Sticks said on 22nd August 2009, 14:51

    And that’s the way the things are done!

    Way to go Lewis, Heikki and McLaren!!!

    Way to go Brown and specially Rubens, back in front of Red Bull

    And… Where’s Ferrari and Renault ??? Far, far away…

    The ‘Badoer choice’ was ridiculous and we could see by Roman in Renault, a kid starting a carrer, we are seeing and ‘old man’ that doesn’t enter in a GP since 1999 – 10 years ago, experimenting with the car, looking around… and endinding up last by far…

    Anyway, I’m too happy to think about Ferrari… lol

  12. mp4-19b said on 22nd August 2009, 14:57

    I find it very amusing when people start criticizing keith’s fabulous blog. Some random guy accuses keith of some bad proof reading & stuff & states that this site is not upto the scratch. News of hamilton’s pole hasn’t even been uptdated in top f1 sytes like formula1.com,f1-live & autosport even as i write this post!! i dunno how people can make such harsh & baseless statements. There is just no comparison between keith’s blog & other mediocre f1 websites. & for people wanting to proof-read, i suggest them to do it at sites like the website of the british parliament or the website of the british queen. just waiting for the weights to be published before drawing any conclusions. the only conclusion i can draw now is that, this site is the fastest at giving accurate, detailed info to f1fanatics worldwide.

    • Patrickl said on 22nd August 2009, 14:59

      I agree. This site is amazing. I’m surprised that a “one man team” can produce so much quality and in-depth news.

    • StEve said on 22nd August 2009, 15:07

      Very true, excellent site.

    • Tiomkin said on 22nd August 2009, 15:22

      This site is the BEST F1 site by far. It gets updated several times a day and has the comment section. It’s great to speak to or argue with other fans of the sport. So what if the odd this is mispelt? It gets updated as soon as its discovered.

      Hats off to Keith, to probably the best F1 site in the world.

    • I agree too – I think we all owe Keith a huge thanks for all the hard work he puts in. The articles are way more intelligent and cover more interesting angles than any other website, or even magazine for that matter. And they’re pretty much relentlessly every day.

    • Ned Flanders said on 22nd August 2009, 17:19

      I agree, this a great site for proper F1 fans. My only real criticism is that Keith sometimes tends to impose his opinion a bit (eg, by saying how banning refueling WILL make races more interesting, rather than ‘should’ or ‘may’), but then again, mabye F1 would be boring about opinions.

  13. Max should resign now!!! said on 22nd August 2009, 15:01

    Go McLaren!
    Anyway I hope Webber gets a good start tomorrow.

  14. Stephen said on 22nd August 2009, 15:23

    Damn… I was hoping Kovi would really stick to Wunderboy. Not a bad effort though with an inferior car!

  15. It’s good to know Hamilton starts at pole position, hope he won’t screw it up. He badly needs a win. He has not been on the lucky side the previous races. Goodluck!

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