French Grand Prix: Qualifying Report

Qualifying for the French Grand Prix, the last from Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, started under patchy cloud with a track temperature of 45 degrees, air temperature of 24 degrees.

Q1:

Adrian Sutil was first to join the track with around thirteen minutes remaining, setting a time of 1:17.915. His time was quickly despatched by his team-mate Albers and Renault’s Fisichella and Kovalainen, the Finn setting a time of 1:16.054. Coulthard sets a time of 1:15.970 with around eight minutes remaining, but with his fellow Brit Hamilton setting a supreme lap of 1:14.805 on harder compound tyres. With 1:35 remaining a number of runners take to the track to improve their time. Raikkonen is second, with Hamilton on pole, team-mate Massa third. Both Ferrari’s made mistakes during their qualifying runs, with Raikkonen easily the fastest car if he has a tidy lap. Adrian Sutil pulls off the track in sector 2 at the end of Q1; he fails to make the cut. Davidson fails to set another time, cutting the beam a second too late.

Drivers Knocked Out:

22. A. Sutil
21. C. Albers
20. A. Davidson
19. T. Sato – Has 10 place penalty from Indianapolis Grand Prix
18. A. Wurz
17. V. Liuzzi

Q2:

As we have seen many times this season, David Coulthard is the first car to begin the session. However, as he approached the end of sector one, he locks up and struggles with downshifting beyond fifth gear. Hamilton sets a time of 1:14.795 with Raikkonen setting a time to go second on a 1:14.828, only for Massa to beat his time by just six one thousandth of second. Alonso goes fifth behind the BMW of Kubica on a 1:15.084. Webber failed to set a fastest lap earlier in the session despite taking to the track, possibly due his team-mates issue, and his last ditch attempt left him struggling back in fourteenth.

16. D. Coulthard
15. S. Speed
14. M. Webber
13. R. Barrichello
12. J. Button
11. R. Schumacher

Q3:

Raikkonen leads the pack out, with team-mate behind, with both McLarens behind him. At the end of the first lap Alonso dives into the pit lane and is pushed back into the McLaren garage with engine problems. A replay showed the McLaren puffed smoke leaving the Chateaux d’Eau. Raikkonen leads with seven minutes remaining, having set a reasonably slow 1:16.173 during his initial fuel burn run. Massa sets a time of 1:15.034 in the first major battle of Q3, with Hamilton second, Raikkonen third. BMW follow with a fourth and fifth, given Alonso’s demise. Raikkonen starts another flying lap, a ten adrift in the first sector, possibly running with a heavier fuel load. Hamilton improves but fails to jump Massa – setting his fourth pole of the season.

10. F. Alonso
9. N. Rosberg
8. J. Trulli
7. N. Heidfeld
6. H. Kovalainen
5. G. Fisichella
4. R. Kubica
3. K. Raikkonen
2. L. Hamilton
1. F. Massa

Alonso is likely to start from tenth on the grid, as Martin Whitmarsh confirms that the failure on his McLaren is gearbox related.