Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes repeated pole position for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix with a now-or-never flyer lap of the 2.7-mile, disintegrating Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The Englishman snatched it in the dying seconds from BMW Sauber's...
Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes repeated pole position for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix with a now-or-never flyer lap of the 2.7-mile, disintegrating Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The Englishman snatched it in the dying seconds from BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica. Hamilton won the race from his first pole position last year for his first victory in Formula One.
Kubica only half a moment before had supplanted Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen from the front row. Hamilton's eighth career pole was his second this season. It put him in company with Ferrari's Felipe Massa, whose three poles had marked the only multiple pole effort in six 2008 races.
"At the end, I had two laps to really pull out a lap and the first one was a shocker," Hamilton said. "I lost time. I think I went wide in Turn 1, so I had to make sure the last lap was good. When I had just begun the lap, the guys were telling me I was still P1, but I had a feeling it was Kimi that was hunting me down. I had a feeling he would have perhaps beaten my time. And so I really knew I had to stick it out there and make sure I got a good lap. I think I found six- or seven-tenths on that lap, so I was quite happy with it."
The last lap, 1 minute 17.886 seconds, edged Kubica's 1:18.498 and Raikkonen's 1:18.735. Lining up next to the world champion on the second row will be double world champ Fernando Alonso, whose Renault was as high up the provisional grid as second before Kubica then Hamilton completed their final laps. In Row 3 are Nico Rosberg's Williams-Toyota and Massa's Ferrari. They are followed by the McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld, who toyed with missing the top 10 before pulling himself up the grid.
Rubens Barrichello made his season's first appearance in third qualifying for Honda. He and Mark Webber, who smacked the wall coming out of Turn 7 and damaged his Red Bull RB4's suspension at the end of Q2, round out the top 10.
"In the hot conditions, the asphalt on the track was breaking up this afternoon and you had to take a good line to avoid running wide where it was so slippery," Barrichello said. "So it gave me the chance to use my experience to put some good laps in, and I had two strong runs in Q1 and Q2 to make it through to the final session. It is nice to qualify in ninth place, and we did a solid job today. I can look forward to a good race tomorrow from here."
Lining up in the second 10 are Toyota's Timo Glock, Williams's Kazuki Nakajima, Red Bull's David Coulthard, Toyota's Jarno Trulli, and Renault's Nelson Piquet. Behind them are the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella, respectively, then Jenson Button's Honda and the Toro Rossos of Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel.
Bourdais posted a quali time good for 16th but took a gearbox-replacement penalty because scrubbing a wall during practice damaged right-side suspension and forced the driveshaft out of the gearbox, hence, new gearbox. Vettel did not participate in qualifying; he wrote off his STR3 in a high-speed practice crash.
Qualifying became increasingly problematic as marbles multiplied in corners. The course itself, which was at least 30 degrees warmer Saturday than during Friday's practice sessions, began breaking up. Instead of staging during a predicted rainy weekend, qualifying took place under brilliant sunny skies that put track temps well north of 100 degrees.
Additionally, tire compound reformation by supplier Bridgestone produced a great deal of peeled-off rubber balls, or clag, and a resultant high number of spins. Trulli spun repeatedly. Kubica complained about the marbles, which had track workers busy with brooms between quali sessions.
Hamilton identified Turns 2, 7 and 10 as the worst affected. Kubica and Raikkonen spoke out in postqualifying interviews about poor track conditions.
"We are very happy for second place," Kubica said. "But it will be difficult race as the track already in quality is breaking down. It will be very difficult. When you miss the apex by 10, 20 centimeters, you go on the marbles and then you just don't turn in. It's very slippery. It's very easy to do mistakes."
Said Raikkonen, "The car was very good all weekend and this morning but then going to qualifying it's quite a joke with the (course condition). You miss the corner because there is so much sand."
Putting his Renault RR28 in fourth spot was beyond reasonable expectation for Alonso. "We have done very little running this weekend and there were still a lot of unknowns before qualifying," Alonso said. "The car is still a bit sensitive and the track changes quickly here, and so I am very happy with my fourth place this afternoon. It's a good start to the weekend. The race is now totally open and that gives us the chance to score some big points tomorrow."
Few drivers had as dizzying a time as Trulli but he spoke the concerns of all: "Qualifying was exceptionally difficult today because the track conditions were a disaster," he said. "The surface was breaking up and getting worse with every lap. I don't know what was going on, but I did my best lap at the beginning and then I couldn't repeat it any more. I spun on my quickest lap at the start of Q2, otherwise maybe I could have been in the top 10. But after that the track just got worse. Today was all about getting a clear, lucky lap. I don't know how the race will go, but the track surface is a huge concern."
With Trulli not reaching the top 10, Toyota has fared more poorly than expected, but the Toyota-powered Williams FW30s set and stuck with pace, Rosberg having gone quickest in the morning's final free practice. Said Rosberg: "I am especially happy with my position in qualifying because it was very difficult, not just because the track has changed a lot from yesterday and even from this morning, but also because the surface was breaking up in various locations. The grip had dropped away, so the aim today was not to make a mistake as it would be heavily punished by simply going 5 or 10 centimeters offline. Anyway, I managed to keep everything completely under control and avoid getting offline, and the reward was fifth, which is a great place to start tomorrow."
The day's other chase was for the back of the grid. Vettel crashed at high speed exiting the reworked Turn 9, where Kubica crashed so heavily in last year's race. The collision broke both right-side suspensions and bent the monocoque. Thanks to this year's rule prohibiting spare cars, the team must rebuild the monocoque, something that could not be done in two hours between practice and qualifying. Vettel will start from pit lane.
Bourdais takes a five-place grid penalty for needing a new gearbox. "The track is falling apart and the conditions are really difficult," the Frenchman said. "Because of the wind, there was also a lot of debris and leaves, which made the track very slippery. Plus, the asphalt has got marbles on the racing line because it's breaking up. After the morning, I could not afford to make any mistakes and run the risk of not taking up a start place for the race, and, in these conditions, it was just unreal. for me. This is one of the worst days of my career so far."
Bourdais's penalty duels with that of Button, whose Honda RA108 suffered gearbox problems and likewise incurred penalty even though the Englishman was already at the back. "I had a problem with third gear right at the start of Q1, which meant that I had no drive and that was the end of my qualifying today," he said.
Button starts between Force Indias and Toro Rossos.
"This afternoon I just lost a lot of grip and didn't have the confidence in the circuit," Force India's Fisichella said. "It was practically undriveable and really disappointing that we could not have finished higher up. We will see what happens tomorrow, particularly if it rains."