Ferrari utterly dominated qualifying for Sunday’s 70-lap French Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen taking the pole position from team-mate Felipe Massa and in doing so recorded a historic 200th pole for the Italian champions.
While Raikkonen celebrates the pole, Massa will be disappointed to lose out on the top position by just five-hundredths of a second, especially as the Brazilian topped the timesheets in both Q1 and Q2. His final run in Q3 saw two minor errors and the time was lost.
McLaren Mercedes had no answer to the pace of Ferrari with Lewis Hamilton making gains on his final run to set the third fastest time. However, with his ten position penalty applied due to his Montreal misdemeanour, Hamilton lines up a distant 13th on the grid.
Fernando Alonso shined once again in qualifying trim in the Renault and will start the race from third position on the grid and with Hamilton taking his penalty, has a realistic chance at a podium position on home soil for Renault.
Jarno Trulli suffered a spin on his penultimate qualifying lap but got the job done as usual for Toyota and starts an impressive fourth position on a weekend the Toyota team mourn the passing of former Team Principal Ove Andersson. Timo Glock starts ninth in the second TF108.
Heikki Kovalainen was unable to challenge the front-runners again in his McLaren and lines up fifth* on the grid ahead of Canadian Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica. BMW Sauber really struggled in qualifying trim and a third row start will be seen as a good result for Kubica. Team-mate Nick Heidfeld was just six-hundredths of a second slower than Kubica in Q2 but did not make it into the top ten and starts a disappointed 11th.
The Red Bull Renault duo of Mark Webber and David Coulthard have been closely matched all weekend long at Magny Cours. Qualifying was no exception as they line up in seventh and eighth positions respectively.
With Glock starting ninth in the second Toyota, Nelson Piquet is promoted into tenth position courtesy of Hamilton’s grid position penalty. The Brazilian topped the morning practice session in his Renault but just missed out on making it into Q3 this afternoon. Still, it was a much better performance from the Renault rookie.
Sebastian Vettel had been firmly in the top ten throughout practice in his Toro Rosso Ferrari and will therefore be slightly disappointed to line up 12th ahead of the demoted Hamilton. Sebastien Bourdais proved much closer to Vettel in qualifying trim and starts 14th.
Qualifying would prove a major disappointment for the Williams Toyota team. Nico Rosberg set the 15th best time having only just escaped elimination in Q1 but his grid position penalty for his Montreal pit lane infringement drops him to the back of the field. Kazuki Nakajima therefore inherits 15th position on the grid after a poor run and traffic on his final qualifying laps of the day.
Honda has shown little pace all weekend and it is therefore no surprise to see Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello starting 16th and 17th respectively ahead of Force India Ferrari duo Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil.
Weather aside, Ferrari look set to run away with the French Grand Prix.
* It was later announced that Heikki Kovalainen would be demoted five positions on the grid for blocking in qualifying.
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