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Massa pips Hamilton and Kubica for Valencia pole

NEWS STORY
23/08/2008

Ahead of today's all-important qualifying session, the air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30 degrees. Although temperatures are not as high as expected, it is bright and sunny with the dark clouds that hovered overhead at the end of free practice having now moved on.

After three practice sessions it's a close one to call with Robert Kubica going quickest this morning, but Ferrari and McLaren both looking very, very good. Furthermore, some of the smaller teams, particularly Toro Rosso, have been setting a good pace.

Having failed to post a time in this morning's session following a string of gearbox problems, Jarno Trulli has it all to do this afternoon.

The lights go green, and Piquet leads the way, followed by Trulli and Fisichella. The BMW duo is also out early.

The tyre options this weekend are, as in Monaco, soft and super-soft, which we will refer to as hard and soft.

Piquet, who hits a bird at the start of his flying lap, crosses the line at 1:40.044 to set the benchmark. However, within moments Kubica has raised the benchmark even higher, the Pole posting 38.935.

Massa is on track, the Brazilian running on softs. Hamilton also on track, as is Hamilton.

While Massa can only manage sixth (39.428), the Englishman goes quickest (38.464). The McLaren driver was on hards, as is Raikkonen who leapfrogs his Ferrari teammate to go sixth. At this stage in proceedings, with the temperatures somewhat cool, the hard option appears to be the correct one to choose.

As Bourdais goes second, ahead of Kubica, Raikkonen goes quickest in the first sector. He loses time in sector two, but a strong final sector sees the World Champion go fifth with a 38.990.

Vettel goes third, as the crowd cheers on Alonso, who takes second with a 38.604. All but Jenson Button have posted a time, but the Englishman is now on track.

As Kovalainen improves to fourth, and Rosberg goes quickest in the first sector, dark clouds are gathering overhead. Rosberg goes second with a 38.595, as Glock goes quickest in the second sector. The Toyota driver edges out Rosberg with a 38.532 with just under six minutes remaining.

Barrichello fails to improve and therefore remains last and in the danger zone, along with Heidfeld, Piquet and the Force Indias.

Massa is back on track, again on softs, however, he appears to be struggling for grip.

The camera on the helicopter has spots of rain on its lens, as Massa goes quickest in the first sector. He posts a personal best in the second sector, before going quickest of all in the third, crossing the line at 38.176 to go quickest of all.

With just over a minute remaining, only the McLarens are not on track. Can Kovalainen really afford to gamble, seeing as he is only seventh quickest?

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