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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Malaysian Qualy...

Q1 -- Was Australia a true representation of performance?

The threat of rain led to an exciting opening to qualifying as cars were flying to avoid the drop zone, but there were few surprises in the end as the usual host of Force Indias, Toro Rossos and Super Aguris didn't make the cut. Up at the sharp end, Toyota and Red Bull put in some shocking fliers...

Red Bull had the green light to qualify, but much was in doubt after the stewards called them in for questioning after Friday practice. Seems they expect cars to hold together and not fall to pieces at the touch of a feather. Who woulda thunk it?

The differing natures of the Sepang and Melbourne circuits are always stunning in the early stages of the season as teams try to get a grip on their performance. The long straights in Malaysia accent different aspects of the cars, and teams we see do well in Australia often struggle in Kuala Lumpur. Still, funny to see Toyota jump up and Renault on the bubble.

Q2 -- Would that rain ever come?

The same sense of urgency dominated the second session, even as the FIA weather report said no rain was expected. One wonders how much could be saved cost-wise by eliminating individual team weather instrumentation...

Regardless, the rain continued to hold off in another frenzied session that in the end saw Honda miss out on the final session along with Piquet, Coulthard, last week's podium hero Rosberg, and a Vettel (despite another spirited performance).

Q3 -- What's with the slow moving chicanes?

On with the Ferraris, McLarens, BMWs, Toyotas(!?) Alonso and Webbo...

The McLarens chose the hard compound tires while much of the competition chose softs. A lineup awaited the green light to make sure to get in that flier before the monsoon commeth.

Massa set an early mark which was briefly eclipsed by Kimi in the final minute. But Massa was not to be denied as he took pole back immediately. Despite McLaren's best efforts, they just didn't have enough to take it to Ferrari today and will start on the second row.

In the final minute, with everything decided between McLaren and Ferrari, the the drivers began to slowly creep back to the pitlane in fuel conservation mode. Slow moving cars rolling side by side certainly did nothing to help Nick Heidfeld as he took his final quick lap, and you've got to expect the stewards will be looking closely to see if he was held up. The new rules may lead to this strategy, but it created a dangerous situation on track saved only by Quick Nick's hands. Teams must be aware who is on a quick lap and get out the way. And honestly, how were they not aware?

So, Massa, Raikonnen, Kovalainen and Hamilton take P1-4 for tomorrow's race. The rain held off for an exciting session, will it stay away tomorrow? Can Ferrari and McLaren hold off the surging BMW and Jarno Trulli's surprising Toyota? Can you count out Renault and double world champion Fernando Alonso? Tune in tomorrow... Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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