Felipe Massa will start tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix in pole position after snatching the top grid slot in the final moments of qualifying. The Brazilian will start the second round of the 2007 Formula One championship ahead of the double world champion Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Alonso was the pace setter in all three qualifying sessions. The McLaren driver was the fastest in both knockout sessions and looked the favourite to take pole position in the top-ten shootout.
But in a frantic climax to session three, Massa produced a perfect lap (1min. 35.043 secs) to edge out the world champion by three-tenths of a second.
Melbourne Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen could only manage third place with rising British star Lewis Hamilton in fourth – seven-tenths of a second behind his McLaren team-mate.
Behind the two Ferraris and McLarens, came the BMW-Sauber of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica – in fifth and seventh respectively. As in the opening round of the championship, the BMW-Sauber proves to be the third quickest team in Formula One and it would be no surprise if they score another points finish in the main event. Splitting the pair is Nico Rosberg, whose sixth place confirmed the promise that Williams had shown in the practice sessions.
Next up are the Toyota duos of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber rounded out the top ten.
As for Renault – the winners of the last two Malaysian Grands Prix – it was a shock to see the past champions eliminated in session two. Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella struggled with P11 and P12 respectively.
And the nightmare continues down at Honda, with a disappointing performance from the two drivers – Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. I suspect Button is becoming more frustrated by a lack of speed in the ‘earth’ car. Qualifying down in P15 is not ideal… As for Barrichello, he had to switch to the spare chassis due to a gearbox problem with his main race car. The Brazilian wasn’t that comfortable in the other Honda and abandoned his first attempt at a flying lap in the unfamiliar car. In the end, Rubens will line up on the grid in 19th position.
Sunday’s race should be exciting as the top two teams battle for the ultimate race victory. Can Massa score his first win of the year? Can Alonso beat Lewis? Or will Kimi achieve his second win for Ferrari? And what about the likely chances of rain in the Grand Prix? As Murray Walker used to say: “Anything can happen in Formula One and it usually does”.
Malaysian Grand Prix starting grid
1. MASSA Ferrari 1:35.043
2. ALONSO McLaren 1:35.310
3. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1:35.479
4. HAMILTON McLaren 1:36.045
5. HEIDFELD BMW 1:36.543
6. ROSBERG Williams 1:36.829
7. KUBICA BMW 1:36.896
8. TRULLI Toyota 1:36.902
9. SCHUMACHER Toyota 1:37.078
10. WEBBER Red Bull 1:37.345
11. KOVALAINEN Renault 1:35.630
12. FISICHELLA Renault 1:35.706
13. COULTHARD Red Bull 1:35.766
14. SATO Super Aguri 1:35.945
15. BUTTON Honda 1:36.088
16. LIUZZI Toro Rosso 1:36.145
17. SPEED Toro Rosso 1:36.578
18. DAVIDSON Super Aguri 1:36.816
19. BARRICHELLO Honda 1:36.827
20. WURZ Williams 1:37.326
21. ALBERS Spyker 1:38.279
22. SUTIL Spyker 1:38.415