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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ferrari 1-2 in Monaco qualifying

Felipe Massa edged his rivals to take pole in Monaco, and Kimi Raikkonen qualified second to lock up an all Ferrari front row, besting the Silver Arrows on a traditionally McLaren track.

No one was more surprised with Massa’s pole winning performance than the Brazilian himself.

“I still cannot believe that I am on pole. It is unbelievable. I was pushing very hard to learn how to drive here because it was the place where I struggled every time I came here,” Massa said. “On the first day I was still a little bit concerned on the second sector but then I managed to put everything together to learn some tricks in some corners and also having a great car. I still can't believe I am on pole.”

Monaco is a race traditionally won in qualifying, and with Ferrari 1-2 on the grid, the Italian team must be liking its chances.

Disappointed, especially after the two McLarens led the final practice prior to qualifying, third place Lewis Hamilton is counting on strategy to carry him through.

“I think we did a solid job. For sure we anticipated we would be a little bit quicker. I guess we were surprised by the Ferraris' pace. Both my laps were quite good. I was quite happy with the way the whole session went,” Hamilton commented. “There were no problems with traffic. We lost a little bit in the last sector but generally the car felt good and I felt I strung together two solid laps but the time just wasn't there. But still I am happy with the strategy we are on, so tomorrow we should see how we do.”

Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen will line up next to him, and Robert Kubica kept his string of strong qualifying runs alive to take fifth.

Willliams’ Nico Rosberg, looking strong all week so far, put in a good performance to qualify sixth, and Fernando Alonso is seventh. Jarno Trulli slots in eighth spot, Mark Webber ninth.

Webber’s teammate, David Coulthard, was the final racer to qualify in the top 10, but did not participate in the session after wrecking his car coming out of the tunnel in the closing minutes of the second session.

Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Kazuki Nakajima, Nick Heidfeld, and Timo Glock all found themselves locked out of the final session. Particularly surprising was Heidfeld, who was again well out qualified by his teammate.

It was also disappointment for Giancarlo Fisichella, aiming for a point to celebrate his 200th grand prix, as he could not get the Force India car through the first session.

Other first session victims included teammate Adrian Sutil, the brand new STR3s of Sebs Bourdais and Vettel, and the beleaguered Nelson Piquet. It will not play well for the Renault driver to be out qualified 10 places by his teammate, whether he clipped the barrier or not.

There is a good chance of rain hitting tomorrow’s race, which could shuffle things up and make for a challenging race sans traction control.

“Tomorrow we will probably have really difficult conditions,” said Raikkonen. “so it is going to be good fun.”

Rain in Monaco has provided some amazing races in the past. Who could forget Olivier Panis storming through the field from 14th for Ligier to take his only career win, one of just four cars to finish? Massa, for one, relishes the challenge.

“For sure tomorrow will be another day and it will be very tough because we have a lot of possible problems in front of us,” Massa enthused. “The rain could come at any time and the race in Monaco is the most difficult one to keep on the track and with a good pace because you are very close to the wall all the time. Whatever comes into your mind maybe can be enough for retirement. I am looking forward to having a great day tomorrow and be clever in whatever condition we approach.”
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