Felipe Massa has claimed the first pole position at the new Valencia circuit in Spain. Following an interesting qualifying which saw some topsy-turvy times for some of the session, Massa came out as fastest as he managed to get ahead of Lewis Hamilton on his final lap. The other Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikkonen, didn’t enjoy qualifying as much and could only get his F2008 into fourth and was 0.5s shy of his Brazilian rival.
The first twenty-minute session saw some of the most interesting times as Sebastian Vettel and Jarno Trulli both ran well at the top of the timing of sheet. Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa also looked fast from the word go and Raikkonen was clearly not entirely happy with his car. Although the Finn was able to start the lap well on most occasions, by the time he came back around to cross the timing beacon, he was down in the overall standings.
As expected, both Force Indias were knocked out in the first part of qualifying, despite having praised the progress they have made with the aerodynamics and seamless-shift gear box. Adrian Sutil ended up in twentieth, Giancarlo Fisichella in eighteenth. Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were also both knocked out, the Brazilian splitting the Force Indias in nineteenth and Button going marginally better in sixteenth. David Coulthard was the final driver to bow out early.
The middle part of qualifying started out busy. During the final few minutes of Q1 and for part of the five minute break and smattering of rain had fallen over the port circuit and many drivers went out early to get a lap in. Fortunately for the drivers, the rain resisted and it didn’t have too much of an affect on the times. And after the big names had set their initial times, it was once again the time for Vettel and Trulli to show their pace and the pair went up to the top of the timing sheets.
In the final few minutes Nick Heidfeld hauled himself out of the drop-zone and went into a slightly surprising third. However, Vettel was still at the top and Felipe Massa was in second. Nick Heidfeld’s impressive run though pushed local hero Fernando Alonso down to eleventh (before going further down to twelfth), and despite the cries of desperation from the fans lining the track, Alonso was out.
The surprise of Q3 was seeing both Scuderia Toro Rossos in the top ten. Sebastian Vettel has been here before, but Sebastien Bourdais joined his team mate this time and although he was expected to get no higher than tenth, the fact that the team have slaughtered Red Bull, well, it’s a strong statement, isn’t it. And with Trulli performing well for Toyota again and Nico Rosberg finding a sweet spot in his FW30, the qualifying finale was set up well.
Initially Lewis Hamilton went fastest but Felipe Massa was hot on his heels. Robert Kubica managed a good last-gasp lap and got himself out of trouble and into third. The final run saw Massa comfortably fastest and half-a-second up on his team mate. Vettel did well to get into sixth, just behind Heikki Kovalainen and Nico Rosberg just squeezed ahead of Bourdais in nineth.
It looks as though Massa could be about to another one of those commanding races, and although the Brazilian does have his moments sometimes, one cannot question his abilities at the moment. Lewis Hamilton will want to claw back some momentum though and he will be desperate to get past the Ferrari as soon as he can. Behind the leading duo Kimi Raikkonen will need to demote Kubica as soon as he can, but as we’ve seen in recent races, it isn’t always as easy as that.
BlogF1 will be taking part in the Live Blog tomorrow so please do come along and contribute to the lively chat as the European Grand Prix unfolds before us. I will put up the usual Live Blog post later this evening.