McLaren's Lewis Hamilton got the fans on their feet at Silverstone on Saturday as he claimed pole position for the British Grand Prix. It was a close and tense last few laps but Hamilton triumphed with a best time of 1:19.997, a tenth quicker than...
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton got the fans on their feet at Silverstone on Saturday as he claimed pole position for the British Grand Prix. It was a close and tense last few laps but Hamilton triumphed with a best time of 1:19.997, a tenth quicker than Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. It was the usual suspects at the top as Fernando Alonso put his McLaren third and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa was fourth.
It was fine and dry for qualifying, the track temperature in the low forties, although quite windy which can be a problem at Silverstone. The Spykers of Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil were first to take to the circuit, followed by the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella. Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trullu were next out in the Toyotas.
Albers posted the first time, 1:23.160, and Sutil was just a couple of thousandths off. Local heroes Hamilton, David Coulthard (Red Bull) and Anthony Davidson (Super Aguri) gave the crowds reason to cheer when they went out and meanwhile the Renaults took places one and two, Fisichella's best a 1:21.054.
The Williams of Alex Wurz was third as teammate Nico Rosberg began a flyer, then Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso nabbed the third spot. David Coulthard's Red Bull managed second on his first effort and Hamilton took over at the top, 1:20.274. Robert Kubica was the first BMW Sauber to post a time, third, and Rosberg slotted into ninth.
The Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were out on track and the second Red Bull of Mark Webber clocked second behind Hamilton's new 1:19.885. Scott Speed's Toro Rosso took sixth and Barrichello and Button managed 14th and 15th. Kubica improved to second and BMW teammate Nick Heidfeld was one behind.
Alonso's McLaren was flying round and he took half a second out of Hamilton's time, 1:19.330, while Raikkonen's Ferrari clocked third. Massa went one better in the second Ferrari and took second but Raikkonen came back to regain the spot. There was a lot of traffic in the last few minutes as drivers tried to escape the drop zone.
Davidson slid off into the gravel which bought out the yellow flags, hampering those on a last flyer. When the track went green there was hardly any time left to do anything and Rosberg was the leader of the six to go in 17th. Button followed in 18th, then Davidson, Sutil, Sato and Albers. Alonso remained fastest from the two Ferraris.
Both Toro Rossos went through and Liuzzi was first on track for the second 15 minute session. He posted 1:20.947 and after a short delay Coulthard and Trulli were next out, then others began to make a move. Coulthard took second the Trulli went to the top but was immediately displaced by teammate Schumacher.
Fisichella was next to go fastest, then Raikkonen with a 1:19.252. Hamilton slotted into second, a tenth and a half off the lead Ferrari, but Alonso went a tenth better than Raikkonen, 1:19.152. Massa was just fractionally off Hamilton's time for fourth -- both Ferraris and Hamilton were on the soft tyre for those runs while Alonso was on the hard.
The BMWs had woken up, Kubica fifth and Heidfeld sixth, and there were a few minutes left for all bar the top six to try one last run. Wurz improved to eighth and Fisichella to fifth, then Schumacher took the spot -- that meant Wurz had been shunted out of the top 10 and Heidfeld only just stayed in it.
Webber led the six to be dropped in 11th, followed by Coulthard, Wurz, Barrichello, Speed and Liuzzi. Alonso stayed at the top, with Raikkonen, Hamilton and Massa close behind. The usual fuel burning got under way at the start of the final top ten shootout with Hamilton and Alonso leading the pack out, followed by the Ferraris.
Hamilton was the quickest early on, 1:21.270, then Raikkonen and Alonso, but it wasn't until inside the last eight minutes that things really got going. Just about everyone streamed into the pit for fresh tyres and Schumacher was first to put in a flyer,1:21.218, but it didn't last long as Alonso's 1:20.410 took over.
Massa posted second and Raikkonen third, then came Kubica, Fisichella and Kovalainen. Hamilton clocked fourth but was less than two tenths down on Alonso's time. Alonso went for his second hot lap and Massa was on his tail and slightly faster -- Alonso was quicker in the middle and posted 1:20.247 and Massa was a tenth down.
Raikkonen was scorching round and even despite running a bit wide at the last corner posted 1:20.099 but Hamilton was quicker still. He managed to shave a tenth off Raikkonen's time and claimed pole position with a 1:19.997. So it was a bit of a mix up front with Raikkonen second, Alonso third and Massa fourth.
"The first timed lap on new tyres in Q3 wasn't very good," said Hamilton. "I lost a bit of time in turn one, and really I just had to pull it all out. I think I really did quite a sweet job of putting the lap together and I'm very very fortunate to have done it, but I couldn't have done it without the team changing the tyres quickly and getting me out on time. So thank you to them but I'm very excited about tomorrow now."
Raikkonen was not too happy to miss out on pole. "It was good, but unfortunately I ran off the circuit exiting the last corner, so we lost a lot of time but that's not something we can change any more so there was definitely speed enough for pole position," he commented. "(I'm) a bit disappointed really now, but hopefully we can get a good start and then it's a long race so we will see how we can do."
Alonso was fairly laid back about third. "It was quite good, no big problems with the lap," he said. "I'm quite happy with the car, how we performed all today: P3, Q1, Q2 and Q3. Obviously we want to be on pole position but third place is the best we could do today and hopefully tomorrow a good set-up on the car for the race will pay off and hopefully we can overtake people in the race."
Kubica scored fifth for BMW, a good effort, but Heidfeld was a bit off it in ninth. Schumacher was equally good sixth while Trulli could only manage 10th, and the two Renaults were seventh and eighth, Kovalainen ahead of Fisichella. A strong performance from Hamilton and a happy result for the fans to have a Brit on pole.
The question is, can he carry it through in the race? McLaren does look handy but Ferrari is not exactly off the pace -- it should hopefully be a good battle on Sunday afternoon. Final top ten classification: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa, Kubica, Schumacher, Kovalainen, Fisichella, Heidfeld, Trulli.