|Heikki Kovalainen celebrates his first pole|
While his highly touted teammate Lewis Hamilton choked in front of his home crowd, McLaren Mercedes' Heikki Kovalainen won the pole position for Sunday's British GP at Silverstone. Mark Webber was a surprise 2nd in his Red Bull Ferrari ahead of Ferrari ace Kimi Raikkonen. It was Kovalainen's first-ever F1 pole and he was a full 1/2-second faster than Webber leading some to believe he may have been running light.
The packed grandstands heaved a sigh of anti-climax on Saturday as Hamilton, the overwhelming crowd favorite, failed even to qualify in the top three for the British grand prix.
|When the pressure was on to produce, Hamilton choked....again.|
Having been also outpaced by his McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen in the three pre-qualifying practice sessions at Silverstone, 23-year-old Hamilton was eight tenths adrift and just fourth on the grid.
Kovalainen, who will start from his first pole position possibly on a wet grid on Sunday, will be joined on the front row by the notably on-form Mark Webber, of Red Bull, who put in his best qualifying effort in two years.
The Independent newspaper reacted immediately with the observation that Kovalainen, a 26-year-old Finn, had put Hamilton "in the shade".
On Hamilton's first 'Q3' effort, he ran wide and into the gravel, prompting his engineer to plead with him to "not overdrive! Do not overdrive!" he repeated.
"That warning went unheeded," a writer for The Daily Telegraph said.
Hamilton commented: "The last lap I felt was good but I think I did too hard an out lap and used up my tires. But the fuel load and everything (for the race) is cool and the car felt good."
From the opening lap on Friday, Heikki Kovalainen - to start from the first pole position of his F1 career - has dominated the weekend so far. His advantage over teammate Lewis Hamilton (P4) in qualifying, when the local hero ran into the gravel on his first Q3 run, was a cavernous eight tenths. "Obviously I just pushed a little bit too hard and it's a pity that I missed the front row," the Briton said.
For the first time since 2006, Mark Webber - also P2 in the damp morning practice - is on the front row of the grid; a first for Red Bull. "We're expecting to have some trouble keeping the Ferraris and McLarens behind us (in the race)," the Australian said. David Coulthard lost track time with an oil leak in the morning and is P11.
The red cars have been slightly off-color at Silverstone, but Kimi Raikkonen pulled out the third best time in Q3. Championship leader Felipe Massa is a lowly P9 after a problem fitting a rear wheel in the decisive Q3. "Compared with last week's test it seems we have taken a step backwards," said team official Luca Baldisserri.
Light and shade in the BMW-Sauber pits; Nick Heidfeld showing some pace with P5, and Robert Kubica - despite looking just two tenths slower than the McLarens in Q1 and Q2 - ultimately stranded in P10 with some sort of technical fault at the rear of his car.
Fernando Alonso topped the damp morning timesheet, and teammate Nelson Piquet was also top-6. They will line up a promising P6 and 7 on Sunday's grid, with engineering boss Pat Symonds revealing both have "good fuel loads".
The bold letters atop Toro Rosso's post-qualifying press document exclaimed 'Best ever', in tribute to the consistently quick Sebastian Vettel's P8 on the grid, complemented by Sebastien Bourdais, a few tenths arrears as usual (P13).
Timo Glock (P12) has looked the measure of teammate Jarno Trulli (P14) at Silverstone, but the pair have not been competitive, despite a promising pre-race test here. "I went for a wet setup in case we have a wet race tomorrow. Now I just hope that will pay off," a disconsolate Trulli said.
A bad weekend and qualifying for Williams, with Nico Rosberg's oddly bouncing car dropping out in Q1, and Kazuki Nakajima (P15) faring little better. "We've obviously been trying to find a solution to my suspension problem, but so far nothing has worked," Rosberg said.
Along with the slowest Force Indias and Rosberg's struggling Williams, both Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button ignominiously dropped out in Q1, which at the very end was affected by a sprinkle of rain. "I'm afraid that reflects the true potential of the car on a dry track," Barrichello said.
Giancarlo Fisichella, who spectacularly spun his car near the end of his last attempt and also had trouble with a loose engine cover, is last on the grid, just bettered by his teammate Adrian Sutil. "We are not too far away from the others," Sutil said.