British GP - Another very close one
While there are accusations that some of the races this season have been not so exciting with little overtaking, the same criticism can certainly not be levelled at the Saturday afternoon qualifying show. Once again, for the final Q3 section the crowd at Silverstone circuit was treated to a fantastic display of Formula 1 cars being driven on their limit. And also once again, there were really only two teams in the fight for the front of the grid - McLaren-Mercedes and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro.
In the end it was the fairytale result for the most talked about driver of the year as championship leader Lewis Hamilton took pole position at his first attempt at his home grand prix. Naturally enough, the partisan crowd gave him an emotional standing ovation. Adding to the excitement was the fact that the English driver took pole away from Kimi Raikkonen only in the last seconds of the session. The Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver therefore starts on the outside of the front row, with the second F2007 of Felipe Massa starting right behind him in fourth place, as the Brazilian was outpaced by around one tenth of a second by third place Fernando Alonso in the second McLaren-Mercedes. The third row features the BMW-Sauber of Robert Kubica in fifth spot and Ralf Schumacher's Toyota sixth. After suffering back pain and missing yesterday's second free practice session, Jenson Button was back in the cockpit today, qualifying his Honda in eighteenth spot.
In recent races, it seemed that whoever took pole went on to win the race, but in France, Raikkonen reversed that trend, securing a Ferrari win from third place on the grid. He and Felipe will be hoping for the best possible start to boost their chances tomorrow afternoon and, as usual, it will not be until the first stint of the British Grand Prix comes to an end with the first run of pit stops that we will get a clear picture of everyone's fuel load strategy and how this might affect the final outcome of the ninth round of the season.
"I can't hide my disappointment," said Kimi after qualifying. "I made a mistake at the exit of the final corner on my second run in Q3. I finished up slightly on the grass and lost traction, which cost me a lot, cost me too much time. But it's not worth spending too long thinking about it. What's done is done and it cannot be changed. Now we only have to concentrate on the race. Clearly, starting on the dirty side of the track is not exactly an advantage but we know we have a good pace over a long run. A lot will depend on the start and the strategy worked out by the team. It's not over yet. We will do our best to bring home the best result possible."
Jean Todt said, "This was a closely fought qualifying session the outcome of which was only decided in the final second. As we expected, the two top teams are very evenly matched as can be seen from the very small gaps between the times. When assessing this qualifying, we obviously have to consider the usual unknowns as regards strategy. Tomorrow, the decisive factors will be the work of the team and the drivers, the timing of the pit stops and car and tyre performance over the distance. For our part, we will do our utmost as usual. This race is a key moment in the fight for both championships and with all our heart we want to bring home the best result possible."
Luca Baldisserri also commented, "Yet another very exciting qualifying, decided at the death. A shame for Kimi who made a small slip right at the end which probably cost him pole position. The race looks to be very open. We have a very quick car, especially over a long run and that means we can be confident about the final outcome of this Grand Prix."