A spectacular moment by BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica on his final flying lap gifted McLaren Mercedes contender Lewis Hamilton with his seventh career pole position ahead of Sunday's Formula One Australian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton,...
A spectacular moment by BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica on his final flying lap gifted McLaren Mercedes contender Lewis Hamilton with his seventh career pole position ahead of Sunday's Formula One Australian Grand Prix.
Kubica's BMW Sauber F1.08 seemed to be hurtling toward the Pole's first career pole when it suddenly had four wheels off track. Hamilton smoothed his way to a 1 minute, 26.714 seconds lap of the Albert Park course in Melbourne. Kubica, fastest in morning practice, recorded a 1:26.869 for his first front-row start, and McLaren rookie Heikki Kovalainen came third in 1:27.079.
First Ferrari in the field will be Felipe Massa's F2008 in fourth (1:27.178), ahead of Kubica's teammate, Nick Heidfeld (1: 27.236), Jarno Trulli in a Toyota TF108 (1:28.527), and Nico Rosberg in a Williams Toyota FW30 (1:28.687). David Coulthard's Red Bull RB4 (1:29l.041), starts eighth and Timo Glock's Toyota TF108 ninth (1:29.593).
The youngest-ever scorer of F1 points, wunderkind Sebastian Vettel, driving a Scuderia Toro Rosso STR2, reached the third qualifying session for a triumph for the Red Bull Jr. team. Mechanical issues knocked him out of the session to leave him with no time but starting 10th.
Defending World Driving Champion Kimi Raikkonen will start 16th after a fuel pressure problem stranded him at the pit lane entrance -- technically on track and unable to effect repairs to continue.
Calling his MP4-23 and his team "fantastic," Hamilton congratulated Kubica's front row-landing effort and cheered his teammate's work.
"I really do like the new regulations," Hamilton said when asked about the removal this season of traction control, a rules change that, as Hamilton put it, "brings out the best in the drivers."
Kubica said his best effort resulted in a mistake at Turn 12 of the 16-turn course that put him on the artificial grass.
"I took quite a lot of risk and it didn't pay off," he said.
Kubica credited team and factory for the front-row achievement.
"It was a great achievement by the whole team," he said. "From the beginning of testing it has been quite hard. All the people in Munich and Hinwil have done a great job. Yesterday we faced (electrical) problems. It has been difficult to balance the car this year, especially when the track is green."
The Australian Grand Prix is run at a park location not used for other racing events through the year.
Kovalainen, whose rookie start at Renault last year included lurid excursions that earned the wrath of never bashful team manager Flavio Briatore and put the F1 rookie driver's job in question, said his weekend has gone smoothly so far.
"I'm trying to be steady," he said. "The first qualifying session was reasonable lap, the car felt pretty balanced. I didn't nail the perfect lap, but it has been a very good start with a new team. I'm very happy with my team."
Form guides wouldn't have predicted Raikkonen would miss the final qualifying session or that Vettel would reach Q3. Other rule changes that affected qualifying session times dictated that race fuel loads be used during the third qualifying session.
Raikkonen's unwanted drama hit at the end of the first qualifying session when he coasted to a halt on the pit entrance. Fuel pressure troubles had surfaced earlier in the weekend.
Neither Renault reached the third qualifying session. Fernando Alonso missed the final session for only the second time, and rookie teammate Nelsinho Piquet failed to emerge from the first session.
The only Australian in the field, Mark Webber, red-flagged the second session when his Red Bull RB4 emitted a puff of brake dust and he spun off track shortly thereafter.
Jenson Button made a final-seconds lunge to reach Q2 and put both Hondas into the second session. Appearances had the Hondas looking as if they would reach Q3, which would have been marked improvement for the Japanese team, but final minute efforts from the Toyotas and Vettel scuppered that.
Giancarlo Fisichella, his Force India teammate Adrian Sutil, Toro Rosso rookie Sebastien Bourdais, Piquet, and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were left to occupy the final six spots on the grid.