Ferrari's Felipe Massa claimed his maiden F1 pole position in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix, beating teammate Michael Schumacher by nearly four tenths of a second. Massa clocked 1:26.907 for the front of the grid and Schumacher will line...
Ferrari's Felipe Massa claimed his maiden F1 pole position in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix, beating teammate Michael Schumacher by nearly four tenths of a second. Massa clocked 1:26.907 for the front of the grid and Schumacher will line up alongside. Good for Ferrari but the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella are looming threateningly on the second row in third and fourth.
It was hot and dry at Istanbul Park on Saturday afternoon, with a track temperature of 51 degrees at the start of qualifying. Renault is minus its mass damper device since the FIA Court of Appeal decreed it illegal last week, while MF1's Christijan Albers and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher will both suffer the 10 place grid demotion penalty after an engine changes.
MF1's Tiago Monteiro and Super Aguri's Sakon Yamamoto were out on track first, quickly followed by the Renault of Alonso. The Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf were next, then Albers, Red Bull's David Coulthard and Christian Klien and Toro Rosso's Scott Speed. Monteiro clocked the first time, 1:30.255.
Alonso quickly took over with a 1:29.087 and more drivers were joining the track; the Williams pair of Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, the Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa. Trulli took over at the top, while Klien was second, Alonso third and Coulthard fourth.
Michael's Ferrari and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld appeared and Webber posted third on his first effort. Button took sixth then Michael arrived at the top, 1:27.385. Heidfeld slotted into second and Raikkonen third, while Massa was late to run and went fractionally faster than teammate Michael.
De la Rosa clocked fifth and Fisichella managed third on his first effort then was demoted a place by Alonso. Ralf was next into the third place and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica was last to make the time sheet in seventh. Klien made a late improvement to ninth after being moved down, and Button to eighth.
Webber was the last man to jump up time times, to 11th, at the end of the first 15 minutes. Coulthard, 17th, was first in the firing line to be dropped, along with Speed, teammate Tonio Liuzzi, Monteiro and the Super Aguris of Yamamoto and Takuma Sato. Massa remained fastest, 1:27.306, with Michael and Ralf second and third.
The track temperature had dropped a few degrees for the second session and Kubica led out. He set the first time, 1:27.861, and teammate Heidfeld quickly took over. Trulli clocked third and Rosberg fourth, then Klien took the fourth place. Ralf took over at the top and Webber slotted into third, followed by Alonso ousting Ralf with a 1:26.917.
Michael was scorching round and clocked fastest sectors across the board to post a blinding 1:25.850. Meanwhile, Button took fifth and de la Rosa eighth then Raikkonen claimed fourth. Massa took third and with time ticking away Fisichella was a late arrival in seventh. Rosberg made an effort to get out of the danger zone but couldn't make it.
Barrichello also failed to make the grade but teammate Button shot up to second. Kubica just scraped through to ninth and it was Klien in 11th who led the list of those to be dropped. De la Rosa followed, which was a bit surprising, then Trulli, Barrichello, Rosberg and Albers. Michael's 1:25.850 remained fastest from Button and Alonso.
Heading into the final session it was hard to imagine anyone on pole but Michael. The usual fuel-burning laps got under way and the times were initially around the 1:30 mark, with the Ferraris leading the way. With eight minutes to go the Renaults were first in for fuel and tyres and the others spooled through soon after.
Alonso set the first serious lap, 1:28.071 and Fisichella was a couple of tenths quicker for 1:27.878. Raikkonen took third then lost it to Button and Massa was on a good one, 1:27.307. Michael had a slight off-track moment at turn one and had to abort that lap, while Heidfeld posted fifth. There was enough time for everyone to put in another flyer.
Michael managed a 1:27.284 -- could anyone outdo him? It was good but not brilliant. As the laps filed through it was incredibly tight, Ralf took third then Massa snatched provisional pole, 1:26.907. Alonso couldn't make it and slotted into third, followed by Fisichella, and by then it was clear that Massa had scored his first career pole.
"A fantastic day for me and to get my first F1 pole is an emotional moment," he said. "Tomorrow I will drive my race thinking about mine and the team's objectives in both championships. We know we have a great package while the Bridgestone tyres are consistent and perform well over a long run."
It was a fine effort from the Brazilian but it's not hard to guess that Michael will end up in front in the race. However, the Ferraris have got those fast-starting Renaults right behind them so it's not a given that the red cars will still be ahead come the chequered flag on Sunday. The first lap could be crucial for the championship battle.
"Getting myself on the front row is definitely not something I can complain about, but today I definitely did not deliver a great qualifying performance, failing to get all the potential out of the car," said Michael. "I am very happy for Felipe on getting the first pole of his career. He drove an exceptional lap and I have to say I don't think I could have beaten him, even if I had not made any mistakes."
Renault is confident in its race pace. "Third position was a good result for me today," Alonso commented. "We knew that we would not have enough to beat the Ferrari package over one timed lap, but we do believe in the consistency of the Michelin tyres and what they can bring us in the race. Our preparations have been focused on the race since yesterday morning, so it is a good result for us to be high up in qualifying."
Ralf scored a solid fifth but will drop 10 places which puts Heidfeld into the position and raises everyone a place up to Rosberg in 14th. Button and Raikkonen were a few tenths off the pace in seventh and eighth while Kubica and Webber rounded off the top 10. It was an exciting end to qualifying and a well earned result for Massa.
After Hungary there doesn't seem much point in trying to predict what will happen in the race but barring any peculiarities it looks like the Turkish victory will be fought for by Ferrari and Renault. Or will it? Final top ten classification: Massa, M. Schumacher, Alonso, Fisichella, R. Schumacher, Heidfeld, Button, Raikkonen, Kubica, Webber.