After his absolute dominance during both Practice Sessions, Kimi Raikkonen looks set to secure pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix. The Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona has welcomed Formula One for eighteen consecutive years, moving from Jerez in 1991.
The 2.9 mile (4.6 km) long track is familiar for many of the drivers as F1 teams do a lot of testing at the circuit the track has a little of everything, from both high- and low-speed corners, off-camber and on-camber, with a long pit straight. Drivers will find themselves at full throttle for around 62% of each lap and their average speeds will be around 125mph (207 km/h). A good aerodynamic package is essential for this circuit, and many teams have opted to bring developments this weekend, not less Ferrari who have opted for a revolutionary front-wing to assist with the high downforce levels required.
There are few big braking zones and plenty of high-speed corners meaning this is not a circuit conducive to many overtaking moves. The track is known for being tough on tyres thanks to the long, high-speed corners and abrasive track surface therefore teams must keep a close eye on their tyre wear throughout the race weekend. A good qualifying session coupled with the right race strategy is critical for a good result at the track.
Conditions are superb for qualifying, with clear skies and track temperature of 39 degrees. The Force India of Sutil is the first car to take to the track followed by teammate Fisichella, with the team looking to take a car into Q2 for the first time this year. Sutil crosses the line to set a lap time of 1:23.224.
With fifteen minutes remaining Raikkonen abandons a flying lap due to traffic, but continues through to start another. Nakajima sets a time of 1:22.396 to go fastest with just over fourteen minutes of the session to go, ahead of Rosberg, Bourdais and Glock.
Raikkonen sets a time of 1:22.050 to go fastest, with Hamilton setting a blistering time of 1:21.366 to knock the Finn off the top of the timesheets for the first time this weekend. Trulli goes third fastest.
With ten minutes remaining, ten drivers have yet to set a competitive time including the local favourite, Fernando Alonso.
With eight minutes remaining, the Spaniard takes to the track, this time in a new tub, just favouring the feel of the chassis around this circuit. Alonso crosses the line in third, knocking Coulthard back to fourth.
Massa then goes second behind Hamilton, with Nakajima third! Kovalainen has yet to set a time with four minutes of the session left, he eventually goes third. Raikkonen takes to the track again, this time setting a time six tenths faster than Hamilton on a 1:20.701.
With one minute to go, Barrichello, Fisichella, Vettel, Sutil, Sato and Davidson are in the danger zone. Drivers knocked out after the final shuffle include Coulthard, who looked to struggle on the last lap perhaps with traffic, Vettel, Fisichella, who missed the flag and couldn t improve, Sutil, Davidson and Sato. Trulli improved to second, over four tenths behind Kimi.
Alonso is the first to the track, five minutes into the session. The Spaniard completes a stunning lap of 1:20.976, surely at the limits of what the Renault can do. Trulli goes fastest with a 1:20.915. Hamilton sets a time of 1:20.825, but Raikkonen goes fastest again on a 1:20.784.
Kovalainen goes eighth, after a poor lap, taking too much curb at the final chicane. Kubica goes fastest with a 1:20.597, whilst Heidfeld, on the harder tyre, fails to improve from twelfth.
Drivers currently in the drop zone include Massa, Heidfeld, Nakajima, Rosberg, Button and Bourdais. Heidfeld pits for soft tyres and leaves the pits, with almost everyone else, with two minutes remaining.
Massa sets a time of 1:20.584 to top the timesheets ahead of Kubica. Bourdais abandons his lap after running wide through two corners. Hamilton sets a fastest middle sector, but abandons his lap finishing the session seventh.
Drivers knocked out of this session include Barrichello, Nakajima, Button, Glock, Rosberg and Bourdais.
Trulli takes to the track with eight minutes remaining. He sets a time of 1:23.393 with fuel onboard. Hamilton goes quickest on a 1:22.379, with team-mate Kovalainen going second on a 1:22.911. Massa goes fastest on a 1:22.058, with Alonso popping a time into third.
Surprisingly, Raikkonen goes fourth, half a second off the pace. Kubica, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Webber, Piquet and Trulli complete the top ten.
Raikkonen pits and takes on soft tyres, with an adjustment to the front wing. Hamilton fails to secure pole during the final run. Kovalainen goes third, Kubica improves to second. Alonso then surprises all by taking pole to cheers from the crowd but Raikkonen grabs pole in the dying seconds on a 1:21.813.
Top ten positions are Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa, Kubica, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Webber, Trulli, Heidfeld and Piquet.