Another epic McLaren Vs. Ferrari battle was set up for Sunday's Belgium GP at Spa when Lewis Hamilton nipped Ferrari's Felipe Massa on his last qualifying lap to take pole position. The 2nd row is also McLaren vs. Ferrari with Heikki Kovalainen slotted in third ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. BMW's Nick Heidfeld rounded out the top-5.
Massa had taken pole on his last lap, but Hamilton, who was fastest in Q2, beat each of Massaâ€™s segment times on his last lap of Q3 and took back the pole by 3/10ths of a second.
Heikki Kovalainen's demeanor during the post qualifying interviews hinted he was pissed about something! Heikki always has at least a smiling and easy going way about him even in times of failure. This was different.
All morning it looked to us like a McLaren one two with Lewis a close number two. Then after out running his teammate in both previous sessions Heikki ends the day half a second adrift in 3rd place!
Bad driving? He was easily faster than Hamilton in sector one. In the interview he said he lost it somewhere in the second sector but does not know exactly where .....and he obviously did not want to discuss it.
Did McLaren slow Heikki's car by sending a command to his car to slow it and was, therefore, Lewis given the pole because he is running for the title and Heikki given the shaft?
|Lewis Hamilton waves to the crowd while his teammate Heikki Kovalainen looks not too happy|
Perhaps the biggest story was the fact that Toro Rosso once again got both cars into the top ten, with Sebastien Bourdais beating teammate Sebastian Vettel for 9th on the grid. However, Vettel was saving fuel and only did one qualifying attempt, so obviously he is on a different race strategy.
After a slightly low-profile Friday, McLaren dominated Ferrari on day two at Spa-Francorchamps, Lewis Hamilton marginally trailing his teammate Heikki Kovalainen in Q1 and Q2 before taking an emphatic pole. "After Valencia we knew we had to improve and that's what we did," said the championship leader. Behind Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Kovalainen is third. "I didn't quite do enough to make it onto the front row," said the Finn, who looked disappointed despite apparently running a bit more fuel than Hamilton in Q3.
After looking quickest on Friday, Valencia winner Massa found himself chasing fellow title protagonist Hamilton's pace throughout qualifying. "I did a great lap, but it was not enough," said the Brazilian. Kimi Raikkonen has seemed slightly more competitive at his favorite circuit than at recent races, but the world champion is still the slowest of the 'big four' marquee runners. "Fourth place is far from ideal to go looking for the win, but it doesn't mean I've given up hope," he said.
If Nick Heidfeld is fighting to keep his seat for 2009, he won the battle at Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday -- quickest of all in the morning practice drizzle, and out-qualified only by the 'big four' drivers. Robert Kubica is P8 on the grid, with team boss Mario Theissen insisting things are "just not right" for the Pole this weekend.
Third in the morning and P6 on the grid leaves Fernando Alonso "satisfied" with his weekend so far. Nelson Piquet (P12) was about half a second slower in Q2 so he missed the final top-ten segment.
David Coulthard was just 2 tenths slower than teammate Mark Webber in Q2, but the margin meant Webber make the Q3 cut and qualified a worthy seventh, while Coulthard is stranded P14 on the grid. "It's so tight in the midfield," the Scot noted.
Of the STR duo, Sebastian Vettel usually has the most to cheer about, but after qualifying at the very top of the order in the Q1 segment, Sebastien Bourdais - fighting to keep his seat for 2009 - let his feelings be known as he whooped-up the in-car radio airwaves. "It was nice to see my name at the top of a timesheet. It's been a long time!" the Frenchman enthused after also going faster than Vettel in Q2 and Q3, although Vettel is definitely carrying more fuel for the start of the race. "It's beginning to come together. I feel this track and its corners suit me better," Bourdais added. Vettel's explanation for being behind his teammate this weekend was very much a backhanded compliment: "I was struggling a bit on those sections where the driver doesn't have to do much. I could not find the pace my teammate had," the German said.
Jarno Trulli (P11) and Timo Glock (P13) were very evenly matched for pace in qualifying, but the TF108 wasn't fast enough to put them in the hunt for the top-ten. "We knew we would be struggling a bit today given these low temperatures," said Trulli, referring to the difficulty in getting heat into the harder compound tires on a cold track. The Italian also explained after qualifying that, because the engine in his car was also used at Valencia, the handicap on the long straights at Spa is an incredible 4 tenths per lap. But technical boss Pascal Vasselon was surprised. "Obviously we got something wrong in our preparation work," he said.
Kazuki Nakajima is having a poor weekend, and his 7 tenths deficit to teammate Nico Rosberg in Q1 leaves him on the very back row of the grid. "I just couldn't find any grip and I am still not able to understand why," said the Japanese. Rosberg (P15) at least made it into Q2, but was 6 tenths short of graduating into the final qualifying segment. "We knew Spa was not going to be our best track but being this far back is unexpected," said the German.
The frustration in Jenson Button's eyes at Spa on Saturday was obvious, after his car broke down just a few hundred meters into morning practice and then qualified behind his teammate Rubens Barrichello. The unhurried RA108s did at least pull off the very last row of the grid, but remain among the Q1 rabble. "We have to be pleased with what we achieved today, particularly given that we have been pretty much at the bottom of the timesheets so far this weekend," said Barrichello.
Split by Nakajima's Williams, the two Force Indias are at the back of the grid, but - propelled by the mighty Ferrari engine - not far off the pace of the struggling Hondas. "Tomorrow there is a good chance to move up some places," said Giancarlo Fisichella, who qualified last.