Hamilton leads McLaren one-two in qualifying at Valencia

Lewis Hamilton earned his first pole position since China last year with a stunning lap around the Valencia street circuit, sealing a McLaren one-two.

The defending world champion grabbed the top spot in his very first attempt in Q3, by a margin of 1.3 seconds compared to his nearest competitor! The shock of that winning edge resulted him going off the track immediately at the first corner!

Even championship leader Jenson Button was unable to beat the one minute, 39.498 seconds benchmark and he will start the European Grand Prix down in fifth.

The only driver to challenge Hamilton’s pole lap was team-mate Heikki Kovalainen. The under-pressure Finn had the opportunity to take his second career pole but made a mistake approaching the final corner on his best lap… Still he can be satisfied in starting the race on the front row, the first for McLaren since Hungary last year.

Rubens Barrichello continued the Mercedes-power domination with third for Brawn GP. The Brazilian was the fastest of all in qualifying with a time of one minute, 38.076 seconds in Q2, so to line up on the second row was a great achievement especially when you consider that Rubens only used one set of tyres in Q3.

Red Bull Racing’s Sebastien Vettel (who recently has signed a new contract with the team to race until 2012) qualified in a surprising fourth position. This result was unexpected, as the RB5 seemed to be off the pace compared to its rivals. In addition, the German suffered a major engine failure in the morning practice session. Still, at least Vettel is ahead of his championship rival Button by one spot on the grid.

The series leader is struggling for balance in the BGP 001 and to end up fifth is not an ideal position for Jenson Button. He really needs to rediscover that winning momentum found earlier this year (Jenson last dominated a race back in June at the Turkish Grand Prix) or else risk losing more points to his championship rivals.

Kimi Raikkonen will start sixth for Ferrari ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Williams and home crowd favourite Renault’s Fernando Alonso.

Completing the top ten is Mark Webber – who looked uncomfortable with the balance of his Red Bull car – and Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber.

As for the two new drivers making their Formula One debuts at Renault and Ferrari, Romain Grosjean and Luca Badoer respectively, the one-hour qualifying session was a difficult challenge for the pair. For Grosjean, he did a reasonable good job by taking P14, less than 0.4 seconds behind his more experienced team-mate Alonso compared to his predecessor, the recently fired Nelson Piquet Jr.

The same cannot be said to Badoer, who replaces the injured Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher in the cockpit of the F60. With the lack of preparation bar those two demo runs this week, the Ferrari test driver simply struggled throughout the qualifying session and will start his first race since 1999 at the tail end of the grid… Luca looked out of depth compare to the others and the margin between the Italian to team-mate Raikkonen was nearly two seconds slower! Ferrari really needs to reconsider a more experienced driver in the next event if Badoer doesn’t improve in the race on Sunday.

Qualifying times from Valencia:

1.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes       1:39.498
2.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes      1:39.532
3.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes          1:39.563
4.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault        1:39.789
5.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes          1:39.821
6.  Raikkonen    Ferrari                1:40.144
7.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota         1:40.185
8.  Alonso       Renault                 1:40.236
9.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault        1:40.239
10.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber              1:40.512
11.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber              1:38.826
12.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1:38.846
13.  Glock        Toyota                1:38.991
14.  Grosjean     Renault               1:39.040
15.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:39.514
16.  Fisichella   Force India-Mercedes   1:39.531
17.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota         1:39.795
18.  Trulli       Toyota                  1:39.807
19.  Alguersuari  Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:39.9252
20.  Badoer       Ferrari                 1:41.413

5 thoughts to “Hamilton leads McLaren one-two in qualifying at Valencia”

  1. The top three drivers’ view on qualifying at the European Grand Prix. Articles taken from Autosport.com.

    Lewis Hamilton celebrated what he labelled as a fantastic pole position at the European Grand Prix after securing the top stop for McLaren for the first time this year.

    Hamilton, winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break, continued with his momentum at Valencia, showing the Hungaroring performance was not a one-off to clinch his 14th F1 pole position, his first since the 2008 Chinese GP.

    The world champion led team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, as McLaren got a major boost to its victory chances tomorrow, especially as both drivers will have KERS at their disposal tomorrow.

    “It is fantastic,” said Hamilton. “Here we are, a fantastic achievement form the team in the last race and to come here not really knowing if we would have the same pace or others made a step forward..

    “Here we are clearly competitive, myself and Heikki did a fantastic job. It’s great to see us both there, because both of us have been wanting a one-two qualifying experience for a long time, so it is great to be here.”

    He added: “Fortunately we managed to do some very good laps so we didn’t have to do too many, but things can be improved. We are in the best position for myself and Heikki for a podium, but it all depends on strategy, how the start goes and how the race goes.

    “It is a great result for us, it is well deserved, and great to know that we can continue with the momentum of the last race.”

    Hamilton admitted the team was under pressure this morning after the Briton missed most of yesterday’s second practice after a crash.

    “Every little bit of time you get on track makes a huge difference,” he said. “You try and evolve the car, you fine-tune the car even more.

    “I missed the whole session, a good hour and 15-20 minutes. We had a lot of pressure on this morning, and fortunately this morning we did quite a good job. I was quite comfortable with the car this morning.”

    Heikki Kovalainen said he had no regrets about pushing for pole position in Valencia, despite an error that he claims could have cost a few positions.

    The McLaren driver looked set to beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s time on his final flying lap, but a mistake meant he was unable to better then Briton’s lap time.

    Nonetheless, Kovalainen will start from second position, and the Finn admitted he was pleased with the result.

    “I went over the limit and the high side you can argue,” he said. “It could have been better. In qualifying you have to go for it, and had I not pushed to the limit I could have dropped three or four places.

    “Luckily I did not lose more than one place. It is fine, a great place to start tomorrow.

    “We have done a good improvement my side of the garage, everyone can be pleased. The factory has been working very hard and fingers crossed it is paying back now.”

    He added: “It has been a tough beginning of the season but I think we are focusing on working very hard, understanding the problems and moving forward, to improve the car and compete for pole position.

    “Before coming here I knew we could fight again, it is always very close, if you get everything right there is a chance to be on pole. I pushed a bit too much in the last turn, I lose a bit of time. I would rather go for it.”

    The McLaren driver conceded his team is now in a great position for tomorrow, and more so thanks to having KERS, which Kovalainen reckons is a big help at Valencia.

    “It is very important, it is one of the good circuits, it is very good here. We can harvest a lot of energy and use it throughout the race and use maximum power which is good. We had experimental parts in KERS which didn’t work, so we went back to a normal race evolution.”

    Rubens Barrichello says he is setting his sights on winning the European Grand Prix, despite rival McLaren dominating qualifying at Valencia.

    The Brawn driver will start from third position behind Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, although the Brazilian was the fastest driver of the day in Q2 with a best time of 1:38.076.

    “I will try to win, that is all that matters to me,” said the Brazilian. “Let’s see what we have in a couple of hours when the fuel loads come about.

    “In one way I am not on the very good side of the track, so it is not very clear. We need to see what it brings but I hope I have a really good start and I can be with the guys.

    “If I have more fuel to be able to win, it will be a while before we can say anything.”

    Barrichello praised the work done by Brawn to recover from a series of disappointing races, and the veteran Brazilian feels his team is now in good shape.

    “It was an excellent job from the team,” said Barrichello. “Whenever the doors were open in the factory we were able to evaluate a lot of stuff and sometimes in life you need to go back to go forward.

    “It is a good job to evaluate things and again to comment and to take the best out of the set-up. We did a good job, the tyre were workings well. In Hungary they were not. The car is in good shape.”

    Team-mate Jenson Button qualified in fifth place, but the Briton was not too displeased with the result, especially considering the two Red Bull drivers were behind him.

    “I struggled with the car on low fuel, but when we put fuel on board the car was much better and had a much better balance,” he said. “I went wide in Turn 4, which screwed me in Turn 5 and I lost a couple of tenths but, still it would have been P4. In a way it’s better to be P5 on the clean side here.

    “It’s not too bad a position. Vettel is just in front but hopefully not for long. Obviously the McLarens were very quick this session and impossible to catch so it’s not too bad.”

  2. Saturday’s qualifying for Ferrari’s Luca Badoer was shocking and to be that far off the pace was unacceptable. The Italian has admiited later that he was not surprised to be last due to a lack of testing and time behind the wheel of the F60. Read on for his views taken from Autosport.com:

    Luca Badoer said that he was not surprised to have qualified last for the European Grand Prix at Valencia, but the Italian admitted that he had hoped to perform better.

    The Ferrari substitute, who has struggled to get on the pace so far this weekend, qualified 20th, and was nearly three seconds slower than Jenson Button’s fastest Q1 time.

    But Badoer, who has been confirmed as Ferrari’s replacement until Felipe Massa returns to fitness, added that he had always expected to treat the Valencia race as a test ahead of what he hoped to be stronger performances in the following races.

    “I was hoping for a little bit better, but that was more or less the range,” he told the BBC. “We were expecting it to be a little bit like this, because with one year’s no driving and a new track, what was possible to do?

    “This was the range we were expecting. For me this race, as I said in the conference, is a test.

    “I just have to run, I just have to not crash the car and make mistakes. I need to run, run, run and be better on the next race.”

  3. Fernando Alonso was unhappy with his result in qualifying for the European Grand Prix at Valencia, admitting he expected more from his Renault.

    “At the beginning it seemed that we could be third or fourth and then after Q1 we realised that we were not going to be as competitive as we thought,” said the local hero, who will start his home race from eighth place despite having topped the times in Friday’s practice.

    “Of course, I’m not happy with eighth but since we had the same position in Q2 it seems that this was the limit of the car today.

    “I’m disappointed for all the fans here for whom I would have liked a better grid position, but I’ll do my best tomorrow in the race.”

    Rookie team-mate Romain Grosjean put on a solid performance in his first qualifying session, the Frenchman making it to Q2 comfortably.

    Grosjean, who will start from 14th place, said he was happy with his showing.

    “I am pleased to have made it into Q2 for my first qualifying session, especially as that was the objective I set myself yesterday,” he said. “I want to thank the whole team who have been working with me and Fernando for all his helpful advice.

    “To be fighting with the best drivers in the world is an incredible feeling and I’m really looking forward to starting my first Grand Prix tomorrow. I will give my maximum to get the best result possible from the race.”

    Source: Autosport.com

  4. Ferrari’s Luca Badoer asks for patience from fans and the media after a lackluster qualifying performance at Valencia. Read on for more, taken from Autosport.com.

    Luca Badoer has called for patience after struggling at the bottom of the times during qualifying for the European Grand Prix.

    The Italian, replacing Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, qualified last, nearly three seconds off the pace set by Jenson Button in the first qualifying segment.

    He was also 1.5 seconds slower than his closest rival.

    Badoer, racing for the first time since 1999, admitted he is still getting to grips with the car and the track, and asked for people to have patience.

    “It was on the range that we expected,” Badoer told reporters. “I’m tired of repeating always the same thing, but it’s been 10 months since I drove a Formula 1 car.

    “And this track is new for me and it’s very difficult. So our expectation was more or less where we are today. I need to drive, to get confidence with the car.

    “I ask you to be patient, because I’m not a robot or Superman. I’m human and I need time to get quick.

    “I’m sure that I will be back. I was quicker one year ago. But I need to take confidence with the car, with the new system in the steering… I just need more time.”

    The 38-year-old Italian insisted he is treating the grand prix weekend simply as a test.

    “For me this is just a test. To improve the feeling with the car and with the team,” he said.

    He added: “Obviously to be last is not something you want, but it was in the range. We didn’t expect to pass the first part of qualifying. I’m not happy, but I’m happy because I’ll have another chance on tracks where I have more experience.”

    Badoer is adamant, however, that he will be stronger next weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix, where he will know the track and the car.

    “Spa I know the circuit. I will know the car after this race, so for sure I will be in a better condition.”

  5. From the 2009 season, the FIA is making public the weights of the cars, with their fuel load included, following Saturday’s qualifying session.

    Below is the weight of each car following qualifying for the European Grand Prix, sorted by qualifying position.

    Pos Driver Weight (kg)
    1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 653.0
    2. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 655.0
    3. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 662.5
    4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 654.0
    5. Button Brawn-Mercedes 661.5
    6. Raikkonen Ferrari 661.5
    7. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 665.0
    8. Alonso Renault 656.5
    9. Webber Red Bull-Renault 664.5
    10. Kubica BMW-Sauber 657.5
    11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 677.0
    12. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 672.5
    13. Glock Toyota 694.7
    14. Grosjean Renault 677.7
    15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 688.5
    16. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 692.5
    17. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 702.0
    18. Trulli Toyota 707.3
    19. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 678.5
    20. Badoer Ferrari 690.5

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