Massa edges ahead of Hamilton to take pole in France

Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa will start the final Magny-Cours race, scene of this year’s French Grand Prix, ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

The Brazilian set a best lap time of one minute, 15.034 seconds beating the championship leader by less than a tenth of second. This was Massa’s fourth pole position this season and its first front row start for Ferrari since May.

Raikkonen lines up behind the leading pair giving a Ferrari 1-3 on the grid. This demonstrations that the Italian team are not out of the contention in the championship battle with rival McLaren, despite under-performing in the previous three races. A strong result in Sunday’s race will be a great reward for Jean Todt and his squad.

As for the double world champion Fernando Alonso, the McLaren star hit trouble with a suspected gearbox problem. The Spaniard didn’t even set a lap time in the all-important top ten shootout in session three and provisionally, will start in the race in tenth position (if the team decides to replace the Mercedes-Benz engine, he will drop another ten places due to the Formula One regulations).

This is bad news for Fernando, as he is desperate to claw back the ten-point gap over his team-mate and leader of the drivers’ standings Hamilton. It will be a very difficult 70 laps for Alonso to recover from.

Making his return back in the BMW-Sauber cockpit is Robert Kubica. The Polish driver missed out on taking part in the previous race at Indianapolis due to doctors’ orders after his horrifying crash at the Canadian Grand Prix. Now that Robert is back behind the wheel, he qualified in an impressive fourth – three places ahead of team-mate Nick Heidfeld.

Between the BMW drivers are the two Renaults with Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen – fifth and sixth respectively. This is the team’s best qualifying effort so far this season.

Toyota’s Jarno Trulli qualified in eighth with Nico Roberg in ninth for Williams. The German produced another solid display in qualifying and will line up on row five alongside the unfortunate Alonso.

As for Takuma Sato in the Super Aguri, the Japanese takes a ten-place grid penalty for overtaking Honda’s Jenson Button under waved yellow flags in the last race.

Yet again, the number two drivers at Ferrari and McLaren have upstaged their leading colleague. But in the case for Fernando, the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-22 let him down… Can Felipe go for the win to end Ferrari’s winless period after three disappointing races or can Lewis score that hat-trick of race victories before he arrives as a hero in his home race at Silverstone? The final French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours could be a thriller!

Starting grid for the French Grand Prix

1. MASSA Ferrari 1:15.034
2. HAMILTON McLaren 1:15.104
3. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1:15.257
4. KUBICA BMW 1:15.493
5. FISICHELLA Renault 1:15.674
6. KOVALAINEN Renault 1:15.826
7. HEIDFELD BMW 1:15.900
8. TRULLI Toyota 1:15.935
9. ROSBERG Williams 1:16.328
10. ALONSO McLaren 1:15.084
11. SCHUMACHER Toyota 1:15.534
12. BUTTON Honda 1:15.584
13. BARRICHELLO Honda 1:15.761
14. WEBBER Red Bull 1:15.806
15. SPEED Toro Rosso 1:16.049
16. COULTHARD Red Bull 1:15.915
17. LIUZZI Toro Rosso 1:16.142
18. WURZ Williams 1:16.241
19. DAVIDSON Super Aguri 1:16.366
20. ALBERS Spyker 1:17.826
21. SUTIL Spyker 1:17.915
22. SATO Super Aguri* 1:16.244

* Penalty imposed after United States Grand Prix

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