Vettel reigns supreme as the big guns fail to deliver


Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 20 degrees C, while the track temperature is 18 degrees.

Like yesterday's opening free practice session, this morning's session was pretty much a wash-out. Indeed, at one stage, such was the intensity of the rain, Nick Heidfeld advised that the FIA would do well to consider postponing this afternoon's 'shoot-out' should conditions be similar.

With half an hour to go the rain has stopped, but it remains overcast, and there is widespread belief that qualifying will see further downpours.

As happened this morning, as the cars prepare to go out, the rain begins to fall. However, unlike this morning it is not a light drizzle, this time around it's heavy from the outset.

The lights go green and Heidfeld heads the queue of drivers keen to get to work. The German is advised that the rain is strongest at the Lesmos. All twenty drivers are on track, all on extreme wets. As if to prove his crew right, spins 360 through the Parabolica while still on his out lap. Elsewhere, Alonso gets the first chicane wrong and Raikkonen is stuck behind a Honda.

This morning's pace-setter, Timo Glock, sets the benchmark, crossing the line at 1:39.655. Bourdais goes second, ahead of Sutil, Piquet and Alonso.

As Raikkonen goes fifteenth, Hamilton goes quickest with a 39.259. Within seconds, Glock and Sutil have both gone quicker. As Raikkonen slips down to twentieth, Kovalainen goes second (37.571).

Glock consolidates his top spot as Webber goes quickest in the first sector. Raikkonen improves to tenth, as Webber goes fifth (37.911).

Kovalainen goes quickest with a 36.405 as teammate Hamilton goes ninth. Next time around, the Finn improves with a 35.830, as Vettel goes second.

A 36.1345 sees Hamilton go second, making it a McLaren 1-2. Rosberg goes third ahead of Vettel and Alonso.

As Massa escapes the danger zone, moving up to fifth, Hamilton gets it wrong at Ascari losing precious time.

Rain-master Nick Heidfeld goes second with a 35.992, as Button gets it wrong at the first chicane.

With seven minutes remaining, Raikkonen is in the danger zone, along with Webber and Trulli. Rosberg improves to fifth, ahead of Massa, Alonso and Kubica. Next time around Massa (second) and Rosberg (third) both improve.

Raikkonen takes seventh with a 36.335, as Hamilton fits a new set of extreme wets.

Kovalainen goes quickest in the first sector, as Webber seeks to improve on nineteenth. As the Australian takes tenth (36.679), Kovalainen posts 35.214.

Most of those in the danger zone are the usual suspects, however, Kubica, Coulthard, Alonso and Webber are far from safe.

Bourdais improves to third with a 35.794, with just over a minute remaining. Elsewhere, Alonso is really struggling, going off twice on successive laps.

By the skin of his teeth, crosses the line before the chequered flag comes out, he gets the chance of another lap.

Alonso improves to twelfth, and Raikkonen goes eleventh. Late improvements for Webber and Fisichella signal bad news for Piquet and Barrichello.

At the end of the first phase we lose Sutil, Button, Nakajima, Piquet and Barrichello.

Kovalainen was quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Bourdais, Kubica, Heidfeld, Glock and Trulli.

Ahead of phase two, the rain stops… but for how long?

The lights go green and Bourdais leads the way. Because we don't know which way the weather is going to go it will be important to get in a 'banker' lap just in case conditions do deteriorate. However, lets not forget that drivers are limited as to how many sets of tyres they can use, be it dry, inters or extreme wets.

As Bourdais begins his first flying lap, it begins to rain yet again. All bar Hamilton are on track.

Kovalainen takes the top spot as his teammate finally leaves the pits, Hamilton having left it worryingly late. The Woking team, convinced that conditions were going to improve, sent the English driver out on inters, but then the rain began to fall.

As Vettel goes quickest (35.837), Raikkonen somehow keeps away from the wall as he has a massive moment at Ascari.

Vettel, Kovalainen, Rosberg, Trulli, Bourdais, with eight minutes remaining. Massa and Raikkonen in the danger zone, along with Hamilton, who can only mange fifteenth.

"More rain is coming," Kubica is informed. On the pit-wall, Michael Schumacher is clearly enjoying it, possibly wishing he was in one of the cars.

While Massa improves to tenth, Hamilton is unable to improve on fifteenth.

Nobody is improving, as Hamilton spins at Ascari. With four minutes remaining, there is time to improve, but will the conditions allow it?

As Hamilton - and Raikkonen - continue to struggle for grip, Massa posts a personal best in the second sector. Replay shows Massa running wide in between the two Lesmos.

"Just focus this one lap," Hamilton is told as he begins his last run. Elsewhere, Kubica spins on the standing water. Like Hamilton and Raikkonen he misses the cut.

Therefore, we lose Hamilton, Raikkonen, Coulthard, Fisichella and Kubica.

Quickest was Vettel, ahead of Kovalainen, Rosberg, Trulli, Bourdais, Webber, Alonso, Glock, Heidfeld and Massa.

Ahead of the final shoot out, it's anyone's guess who will be on pole position tomorrow afternoon.

Massa is one of the first out for the final phase, the rain having eased off. That said, the track remains soaked, with standing water and poor visibility. All ten drivers on track, all on extreme wets.

Rosberg gets the first chicane wrong, as Glock sets the benchmark, crossing the line at 41.396. Within moments, however, six drivers have gone quicker, with Kovalainen (38.694) the best of the lot.

Behind Kovalainen, it's Bourdais, Webber, Alonso, Trulli, Heidfeld, Vettel, Rosberg and Glock, with four minutes remaining.

A 37.555 sees Vettel go quickest, making it a Toro Rosso 1-3, what a turn-up for the books.

As Kovalainen consolidates second and Rosberg improves to third, it begins to rain hard again. However, it is only raining really hard on one part of the track.

Somehow Webber goes third, but Bourdais spins at Ascari, the part of the track most affected by standing water.

Surely nobody is going to improve now, though Vettel continues to set a stunning pace.

The session ends with Sebastian Vettel on pole as Massa somehow improves to sixth, crossing the line at 38.894. An improvement also from Webber, who retains third.

As Vettel is told that he is on pole he punches the air in delights, "woo-hoo", he shouts, Homer Simpson would be proud.

When people check out the grid there are sure to be some who seriously wonder whether it's a late April Fool joke, however, other than some strange names at the front end, it is the big hitters at the back end of the grid that will really attract attention, especially as one looks ahead to tomorrow.

At this point in time it is thought that tomorrow will be dry, but going by what we've seen thus far we wouldn't bet on that.

Sebastian Vettel gives further evidence of his supreme talent, while Sebastien Bourdais further compounds Toro Rosso's ever improving form. Let's not forget that while this is the 'sister' team to Red Bull, this, in many ways, is the remnants of the old Minardi team. At a time when there is so much that is bad in F1, how nice to think that our sport can still produce the occasional fairytale.

McLaren's hopes will very much rest on Heikki Kovalainen tomorrow, as teammate Hamilton starts from fifteenth. Whatever the conditions, this is the Finn's opportunity to step up to the plate.

A great third place from Mark Webber who can always be relied to deliver when needed to. Rosberg starts from fifth, behind Bourdais, ahead of Massa, Trulli, Alonso, Glock and Heidfeld, who one might have thought would be nearer the front.

While Vettel is rightly lauded for his achievement, one has to wonder what went wrong as far as Hamilton, Raikkonen and Kubica are concerned.

While we don't want to see monsoon-like conditions tomorrow, we don't want to see one of the dry processions Monza often serves up.

Whatever the conditions, the fact is that we could be in for something special tomorrow, in spite of what the gods and the race stewards might do to spoil the party.

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    Published: 13/09/2008
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