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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hamilton on pole in Canada

Lewis Hamilton snatched pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix from Robert Kubica in the closing seconds of qualifying on a hot, dry afternoon at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

“To achieve pole position here in Canada – at the same place where I took my first Formula 1 pole just one year ago – is really awesome,” Hamilton said. “Our car feels good and we're really on top of our game, even though the track started breaking up in places.”

Kubica was content with the result, but remains wary of his competition tomorrow.

“I'm very happy with second. Certainly it will be a tough race tomorrow on this track, and unfortunately I shall not be starting on the clean side,” he said. “McLaren particularly look very strong and I shall also have pressure from the Ferrari, but we have to see who is on which strategy.”

Kimi Raikkonen starts third. The Finn lamented the track conditions, complaining about marbles on the road surface, a result of the track breaking down in the heat.

“It's unbelievable how much time I lost in turn ten, lap after lap. The track was already beginning to break up in Q1 and I had no drive – it was like driving on ice, and I never managed to find the right line at this point,” Raikkonen said. “It's a real shame, because the car was going very well and I could have fought for pole position.”

Raikkonen wasn’t the only driver to complain about the conditions, most noted the low level of grip as the session went on, and many expressed concern for the race if the track continues to degrade.

The Sebs, Vettel and Bourdais, both made contact with the wall during the morning practice session. Vettel was left worse off as his car could not be repaired in time for qualifying, and he will be starting from the pitlane tomorrow. Bourdais’ situation required a gearbox change, so the Frenchman will take a penalty.

Morning practice offered up another twist, with Nico Rosberg leading the pack, but qualifying is what counts, and Q1 saw Ferrari and McLaren battling for their usual spots at the top of the sheet.

Meanwhile, the third constructors title challenger, BMW Sauber, chose to wait until the session was half over before emerging from the pits. Both Kubica and Nick Heidfeld would make it to Q2 without difficulty.

At the not-quite-so-sharp end of the field, Jenson Button struggled. He was soon out with a gearbox problem as his difficult weekend continued, the Briton joining the Toro Rossos and Force Indias in the bottom five at the end of Q1.

“I had a problem with third gear right at the start of Q1 which meant that I had no drive and that was the end of my qualifying today,” Button said. “It's been a pretty tough weekend for us and it's very disappointing to be starting from the back of the grid. We will just have to see how the race develops and take advantage of any opportunities which might arise."

BMW Sauber repeated their strategy of letting everyone else battle for position in Q2, waiting until almost the half-way point before emerging from the garage to set times. Both drivers would again make it through to the next session.

As Q2 progressed, the rest of field began to shake itself out. Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Raikkonen were at the top, along with a surprising Fernando Alonso in fourth.

Nailing the fifth best time in Q2, Mark Webber was also impressive, until he spun and made contact with the wall at the end of the session.

“I was going okay, but the track was breaking up and there were marbles on the racing line. Unfortunately, on the way back to the pits at the end of the second session, I was slightly off line, got onto the marbles and couldn’t bring it back.” Webber said. “I’m not sure how they’re going to manage with the track tomorrow, but everyone’s in the same boat. I think we’ll need to use motocross bikes, as it’s not realistic in a Formula One car, you’ll need to drive on the grass or on the inside of the hairpin.”

Another spinner was Jarno Trulli, who lost it three times in the first two sessions. Teammate Timo Glock also missed out on Q3, the first time Toyota missed the final session this season.

“Qualifying was exceptionally difficult today because the track conditions were a disaster,” said Trulli. “The surface was breaking up and getting worse with every lap. I don't know what was going on but I did my best lap at the beginning and then I couldn't repeat it any more. I spun on my quickest lap at the start of Q2, otherwise maybe I could have been in the top ten. But after that the track just got worse.”

The fact Nico Rosberg beat the works squad, putting his Toyota-powered Williams into the final session, was likely small consolation for the Japanese team. Especially as Rubens Barrichello put rival Honda into the top 10.

“In the hot conditions, the asphalt on the track was breaking up this afternoon and you had to take a good line to avoid running wide where it was so slippery,” Barrichello said. “So it gave me the chance to use my experience to put some good laps in and I had two strong runs in Q1 and Q2 to make it through to the final session.”

David Coulthard, Kazuki Nakajima and Nelson Piquet also missed the cut.

So for the final 10 minutes, it was a pair of McLarens, a pair of Ferraris, a pair of BMW Saubers, and a Renault, a Honda and a Williams battling for the top nine slots (Webber sustained enough damage from his Q2 contact with the wall to miss out on the final session).

McLaren and Ferrari were immediately out of the gate, and Hamilton led much of the session, but as the flag came out, Kubica went P1.

Yet Hamilton was still on a flyer, and took a last-gasp pole to assure he would start on the clean side of the circuit.

“On my penultimate lap in the third part of qualifying I lost a bit of time when I ran wide and I knew that Robert and Kimi were chasing me so I was aware I had to give it my all,” Hamilton said. “On my final lap, I found more than six tenths which was enough for pole position. Thank you to everybody in the team, I hope I will be able to reward them tomorrow with a similar result.”

With Hamilton, Kubica, and Raikkonen in the top three, each of the leading constructors are represented up front. Massa, Heikki Kovalainen and Heidfeld must have been hoping for better, however, split from their teammates by interlopers Alonso and Rosberg.

“The car is still a bit sensitive and the track changes quickly here, and so I am very happy with my fourth place this afternoon - it's a good start to the weekend,” Alonso said. “The race is now totally open and that gives us the chance to score some big points tomorrow.”

Rosberg was equally pleased.

“I managed to keep everything completely under control and avoid getting offline, and the reward was fifth, which is a great place to start tomorrow,” he said.

Teams have a choice between soft and super soft tires this weekend. The forecast calls for clouds, but it will again be warm, so track degradation will likely continue to be an issue.

Raikkonen, for one, isn’t all doom and gloom.

“One thing's certain, in the race tomorrow, it will be very difficult to get through here. But the situation is not that bad,” he said. “We are quick, as could be seen all weekend long up to qualifying and starting on the clean side of the track is definitely a good thing. Let's wait and see what happens tomorrow."
Canadian Grand Prix starting grid
1. Hamilton- McLaren
2. Kubica-BMW Sauber
3. Raikkonen-Ferrari
4. Alonso-Renault
5. Rosberg-Williams
6. Massa-Ferrari
7. Kovylainen-McLaren
8. Heidfeld-BMW Sauber
9. Barrichello-Honda
10. Webber-Red Bull
11. Glock-Toyota
12. Nakajima-Williams
13. Coulthard-Red Bull
14. Trulli-Toyota
15. Piquet-Renault
16. Sutil-Force India
17. Fisichella-Force India
18. Button-Honda
19. Bourdais-Toro Rosso*
20. Vettel-Toro Rosso

*penalty 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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