In a sensational qualifying session that saw some big names fail to impress, it came down to the Force India team and Giancarlo Fisichella to put in a mighty performance. The experienced Italian driver went fastest in the first run, was up with Jarno Trulli in the second and clinched his first pole position since Malaysia 2006 in the all-important third session. It is Force India first pole position and all eyes will be on the Silverstone-based team tomorrow.
Both Force India drivers performed well in qualifying, and Adrian Sutil was hot on Fisichella’s heels initially, but couldn’t quite better the pace of those around him in the second stint. Sutil starts the race in P11 though, and is primed for a good race providing he can make up a couple of places at the start and hang on to those ahead. The field spread tends to be quite big at Spa Francorchamps, but if the cars are running well, then both Sutil and Fisichella could disrupt the usual running and provide an interesting race.
Two of the sport’s biggest names fell by the wayside early on in qualifying, and Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will start tomorrow’s grand prix in P12 and P14 respectively. Although only 0.003s shy of Sutil, Lewis Hamilton couldn’t quite make it out of Q2, but the most surprising performance came from Button, who once again has lost out to his team mate.
Rubens Barrichello fared better around Spa Francorchamps and the European Grand Prix winner starts in P4. Although not the best position to capitalise on his recent upsurge in pace, Barrichello is at least ahead of Red Bull Racing and McLaren, and only has a BMW, Toyota and Force India ahead of him. Assuming the experience of Barrichello can keep him out of trouble tomorrow afternoon, and depending on how much fuel is in the Brawn, Rubens is primed for a stellar race.
Like Force India, BMW have come alive as well, and although the grid looks like it should be indicating a wet qualifying session, the Belgian circuit was dry throughout and the results we see are genuine. Nick Heidfeld struggled in Q3 and seemed to have lost his way despite having hauled his F1.09 into the third run. However, on his last run Heidfeld popped in a surprising P3 lap and leads a resurgent BMW team into the race. Robert Kubica finished his Saturday running in P5 and following on from Kubica’s point-scoring European Grand Prix, the Hinwil team must surely be looking forward to another haul of points from the race tomorrow.
Toyota have both their cars in the top ten as well, with Jarno Trulli reveling the Spa Francorchamps circuit. Trulli sits alongside his compatriot on the front row of the grid and with his team mate in P7, both Trulli and Glock are taking the fight to McLaren in the constructors championship, the teams separated by only 2.5 points.
Both Red Bulls did manage to qualify in the top ten, but looking at the final positions, it isn’t much to write home about. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber completed their afternoons in P8 and P9, and although they are ahead of Button, they are also a fair distance behind Barrichello. It isn’t obvious why the team suffered so much in qualifying, but both drivers will struggle to score any meaningful points in the race and will be hoping for a bit of bad luck to fall Barrichello’s way.
Elsewhere on the grid, the Scuderia Toro Rosso and Williams had fairly anonymous sessions, with only Nico Rosberg again showing consistency with a top ten position, but seemingly down on pace in comparison to his Valencia outing last weekend. Renault too are struggling, Fernando Alonso only getting as high as P13 and Romain Grosjean only bettering the Ferrari of Luca Badoer.
And so Luca Badoer has indeed failed to improve his performance from the European Grand Prix, the Italian bringing up the rear after his qualifying ended early with a trip across the grass and thump with the barrier. Although not a heavy accident, the back of the F60 sustained damage and perhaps provided the final nail in his Formula One career.