Kovy claims maiden pole with Silverstone stunner

Heikki KovalainenHeikki Kovalainen pulled out the lap of his life in qualifying at Silverstone to clinch his first career pole position by a monumental margin, much to the anguish of 140,000 British fans who watched their man Lewis Hamilton demoted to fourth as Kimi Raikkonen and then, incredibly, Mark Webber toppled the Briton.

Less than a minute to go in the final knock-out session of qualifying and the man sitting on the top of the timesheets is clad in neither red nor silver. That was the scale of the magic that unfolded on the Northamptonshire track on Saturday.

Red Bull Racing s Mark Webber had vaulted to P1, knocking Kimi Raikkonen off the top spot while Lewis Hamilton, who had failed to eclipse the Finn after struggling with oversteer and writing off his first flying lap with a mistake at Priory, was demoted to third as alarm bells started ringing around the Silverstone arena.

Out on track Heikki Kovalainen was blitzing each of the fifteen corners for all he was worth, setting personal bests and lighting up the timing sheet like a Christmas tree. The Finnish ace crossed the start/finish line with a lap of 1m 21.049, a colossal half a second quicker than Mark Webber and almost eight tenths faster than team-mate Hamilton.

The lap well-and-truly marked the end to the Ferrari supremacy that Silverstone has bore witness to in recent years. The Scuderia struggled throughout the qualifying hour with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa languishing in sixth and eighth respectively in Q2 and fourth and seventh in Q1. While Raikkonen managed to go quickest on his second flying lap with with a scintillating third sector time which proved beyond the reach of Hamilton the best Felipe Massa could manage was ninth place.

Kovalainen s stunning lap aside, it was the Red Bull owned teams that were the surprise packages of the session. Mark Webber proved that the pace Red Bull Racing had shown in the morning warm up was genuine, while Toro Rosso s Sebastian Vettel led a sublime charge to eighth place behind the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet.

It was a mixed day for BMW Sauber as the handling problems that hampered the team in Magny-Cours showing no signs of abating. Nick Heidfeld nonetheless appears to have got on top of the problems he has been having with heating up his Bridgestone Potenzas; the German lapped fifth quickest, less than a tenth of a second slower than Lewis Hamilton. Robert Kubica, the man leading the assault on championship leader Felipe Massa in the title race, was forced to sit out most of Q3 after a problem intervened at Stowe corner.

David Coulthard in the sister Red Bull just missed out on a place in the top ten shoot-out alongside team-mate Mark Webber. The Scot, participating in his final qualifying session in front of his home crowd, starts the race in eleventh place where he is well poised to challenge the front-runners given the underlying pace in the RB4 that Webber has shown is possible.

It was a frustrating day for fellow brit Jenson Button. The Honda driver, who had showed impressive pace behind the wheel of his R108 in morning practice was unable to escape the chop in the opening qualifying session and starts Sunday s race from P17.

Pos  Driver        Team                 Q1        Q2        Q3       Laps
 1.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes     1:19.957  1:19.597  1:21.049  15
 2.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault     1:20.982  1:19.710  1:21.554  16
 3.  Raikkonen     Ferrari              1:20.370  1:19.971  1:21.706  18
 4.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes     1:20.288  1:19.537  1:21.835  13
 5.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber           1:21.022  1:19.802  1:21.873  16
 6.  Alonso        Renault              1:20.998  1:19.992  1:22.029  15
 7.  Piquet        Renault              1:20.818  1:20.115  1:22.491  19
 8.  Vettel        Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1:20.318  1:20.109  1:23.251  16
 9.  Massa         Ferrari              1:20.676  1:20.086  1:23.305  16
10.  Kubica        BMW Sauber           1:20.444  1:19.788            12
11.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault     1:21.224  1:20.174            14
12.  Glock         Toyota               1:20.893  1:20.274            14
13.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1:20.584  1:20.531            16
14.  Trulli        Toyota               1:21.145  1:20.601            13
15.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota      1:21.407  1:21.112            14
16.  Barrichello   Honda                1:21.512                       9
17.  Button        Honda                1:21.631                      11
18.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota      1:21.668                       6
19.  Sutil         Force India-Ferrari  1:21.786                       9
20.  Fisichella    Force India-Ferrari  1:21.885                       8