A dramatic hour of qualifying for the British Grand Prix saw Heikki Kovalainen claim his first Formula One pole position – and by a cool half a second from the rest of the field.
Kovalainen, right on the pace all weekend long, timed his final qualifying lap to perfection as he demoted both Kimi Raikkonen and then Mark Webber from the top position on the grid.
Red Bull Renault announced a contract extension for Webber this weekend and the Australian driver did his usual outstanding qualifying job for the team as he lines up on the front row of the grid alongside the leading McLaren Mercedes.
Kimi Raikkonen briefly held the provisional pole position in the closing moments of the session, but ultimately found himself bumped down to third position overall on a day that the Ferrari team looked rather… ordinary. Raikkonen’s first attempt at the pole was a lurid affair with understeer and then oversteer blighting his lap. His second run was a much cleaner effort, albeit seven-tenths of a second off Kovalainen’s best.
Lewis Hamilton had no answer to the pace of McLaren team-mate Kovalainen and lines up in fourth position on the grid. Hamilton’s first lap was ruined as he ran off track in the complex, but his second lap at least vaulted him up to his second row start.
Nick Heidfeld starts fifth in his BMW Sauber. The result marks the first time this year that the German veteran has managed to out-qualify team-mate Robert Kubica. It was not a trouble-free session however for the Polish driver however as a mistake on his first qualifying lap saw him pit and he then took no further part in the session with what must have been a mechanical issue. Kubica lines up in tenth position.
Fernando Alonso continues his 100 percent success rate in out-qualifying Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet, but it was closer this weekend as the duo line up sixth and seventh on the grid ahead of the irrepressible Sebastien Vettel in the Toro Rosso Ferrari.
Vettel opted to sit out much of the final session and completed just one run in the session and that was good enough to move him eighth ahead of the strangely off-form Felipe Massa and Kubica. Starting ninth, championship leader Massa faces a long race on Sunday afternoon.
David Coulthard just missed out on making it into the final round of qualifying and lines up 11th in the second Red Bull Renault ahead of Timo Glock in the leading Toyota. It was a disappointing day for the Toyota team with Jarno Trulli struggling to 14th behind Sebastien Bourdais in the second Toro Rosso.
It was also a poor day for the Williams Toyota team with Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg just 15th and 18th. For Rosberg, eliminated in the first round of qualifying, it was clear that he had a major handling issue with his FW30. A brief rain shower at the end of the first qualifying session saw Rosberg opt not to run again while the likes of Bourdais did and subsequently found a great deal of time. From this far back on the grid, Williams will opt to fill the cars to the brim and send Rosberg and Nakajima racing.
As expected, Honda did not shine with Rubens Barrichello again showing the way to Jenson Button, albeit by less than a tenth of a second, as they line up 16th and 17th. At the back, Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella pushed hard – too hard in the case of the latter – but could not progress with the updated Force India Ferrari package.
So we have a different look to the grid with a Red Bull lining up alongside a McLaren for the 60-lap British Grand Prix…
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