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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Finn flies to maiden pole at Silverstone

Heikki Kovalainen took his first career pole in qualifying for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Saturday.

“It has been going really well all weekend and we managed to put some more pace to the car last week and all week here it has just been carrying on from that,” Kovalainen said. “Obviously like you said I have been around this Silverstone area for many, many years of my life. I know a lot of family and friends around here, so it is great to make the first pole here and tomorrow we will just carry on where we left today.”

Teammate and home favorite Lewis Hamilton could only manage fourth, bested by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and the surprising Red Bull of Mark Webber.

Webber looked set to steal the pole position until Kovalainen put in a blistering run at the end to nail it by half a second.

“My engineer told me I was P1 at Becketts but I knew that was going to continue and Heikki got the pole and I am happy for him,” the Australian said. “We got second but I was still surprised that we hung in there. I can't wait for tomorrow now, I wish the race was now.”

After a difficult Friday, Raikkonen was satisfied he had put himself in the best possible position for tomorrow’s race.

“Yesterday was very difficult, so we put quite a lot of effort into sorting my car out and it seems to have worked okay. For sure we are not exactly where we want to be but it's never been our strongest point the first couple of qualifyings,” Raikkonen said. “Nobody knows how much fuel everybody is running and for sure, McLaren and especially Heikki have been very fast this week, so tomorrow we will only know how fast we were today. But it was pretty good today in qualifying and I was very happy with the car.”

Nick Heidfeld bested teammate Robert Kubica for the first time this season, grabbing the fifth spot. Kubica sat out of Q3 after complaining about a problem with the rear of the car he originally felt Friday. He will start 10th

The Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet sit sixth and seventh, while Sebastian Vettel muscled the Toro Rosso into eighth ahead of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari.

Problems with the right rear tire in the pits aborted Massa’s final run.

The first session opened up with most of the field trying to get in a quick lap in case of rain. It proved to be the right choice as rain showers hit in the closing minutes of Q1.

The rain was bad news for the five in the drop zone, and at the end of Q1, it was the Force Indias, two disappointing Hondas and Nico Rosberg not making the cut.

The Williams driver in particular was left scratching his head as to his woes, blamed on suspension issues he has been suffering all weekend.

The sun was back out for Q2, and this time the teams took their time emerging from their garages. The McLarens would go on to dominate the session, and Webber revealed his pace by nabbing third.

Not so lucky for teammate David Coulthard, who just missed out on the shootout. An oil leak in the morning put the Scot on his back foot.

Neither Toyota made the cut, although Timo Glock got the better of Jarno Trulli. Sebastien Bourdais of Toro Rosso and Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima were also eliminated.

But today was Kovalainen’s day, as the Finn took his first pole in the country where he began his post-karting career. And while this was one for the McLaren driver to savor, he knows he will need to be on top of his game tomorrow.

“For sure, Kimi is around me and Mark and both are good drivers, very competitive, so it is not going to be easy tomorrow,” Kovalainen said. “Our pace has been very good all week and I am confident that our strategy will be a strong one as well tomorrow. The only target is to win the grand prix.”

British Grand Prix starting grid

  1. Kovalainen, McLaren
  2. Webber, Red Bull
  3. Raikkonen, Ferrari
  4. Hamilton, McLaren
  5. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
  6. Alonso, Renault
  7. Piquet, Renault
  8. Vettel, Toro Rosso
  9. Massa, Ferrari
  10. Kubica, BMW Sauber
  11. Coulthard, Red Bull
  12. Glock, Toyota
  13. Bourdais, Toro Rosso
  14. Trulli, Toyota
  15. Nakajima, Williams
  16. Barrichello, Honda
  17. Button, Honda
  18. Rosberg, Williams
  19. Sutil, Force India
  20. Fisichella, Force India
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