Webber takes maiden pole

11/07/2009
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's all-important qualifying session, the air temperature is 14 degrees C, while the track temperature is 22 degrees. It remains chilly, overcast and windy, however, the experts say there will be no rain over the next hour.

Lewis Hamilton has been quickest in two of the three practice sessions, however, unless the various new components he is running this weekend are a lot better than we suspect, one has to presume that the Englishman's McLaren has been running light for much of the time. Whether the Woking team would want to carry over such a strategy into qualifying, and thereby the race, however, remains to be seen.

The smart money has to be on Red Bull and thereafter Brawn. While the Brackley outfit continues to look good, certainly as far as Button is concerned, the Austrian team looks as though it is capable of a major fight back in the second half of the season.

The fact is, Brawn doesn't have the financial resources to slug it out down to the wire, while Red Bull, on the other hand, simply has to go to Dietrich Mateschitz, and ask for whatever's needed to secure both titles. He certainly has the money.

Therefore, with this in mind, assuming that Red Bull will be strong, Brawn must ensure that it maintains a high level of competitiveness and is able to pick up as many points as possible at every remaining round.

As far as this weekend is concerned, Red Bull has the edge and though it is Vettel's home race, we have a gut feeling that teammate Webber could turn the tables.

Other than Red Bull and Brawn, the difficult weather conditions are sure to play havoc in terms of form, however, Toyota, Williams and Ferrari have looked good some of the time, temperatures permitting, while Force India is surely close to opening its 2009 points account.

As for McLaren, all the upgrades - including a new floor, new diffuser, new front wing and new upper body cover - are on Hamilton's car so don't expect any miracles from Kovalainen, while Alonso's late improvement in this morning's session is sure to be down to fuel load. That said, with an eye on tomorrow's weather, and mindful of some of the French teams' more insightful strategic decisions last year, let's not write off the Spanish two-time champion.

As Robert Kubica is warned that there could be rain, media attention switches to seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher who has just arrived.

The lights go green for Q1 and yet again it is Vettel who heads the pack of drivers eager to get to work. Indeed, within moments all 20 cars are on track. Highly unusual.

Vettel sets the benchmark, crossing the line at 33.413, however, Button, Rosberg and Barrichello all go quicker.

Hamilton goes quickest, improving again next time around with a 1.686, Alonso goes second ahead of Barrichello.

Another improvement for Hamilton who posts 31.473, as Massa improves to third with a 1.915. The action is fast and furious, the order constantly changing.

Button posts 31.764 to go second as Vettel goes quickest overall in the second sector. The German crosses the line at 31.430 to take the top spot with almost twelve minutes remaining.

Hamilton goes second and Rosberg third, as Webber improves to twelfth. Both Toyotas still in the danger zone.

Heidfeld goes fifth with a 31.771 as teammate Kubica languishes in nineteenth.

Alonso and Webber on hot laps, the Australian going quickest with a 31.257, while the Spaniard takes second with 31.302The two-time world Champion might have gone even quicker had he not lost time behind Glock, who didn't appear to notice him.

Massa goes seventh while Kubica can only manage sixteenth. Raikkonen fails to improve on eleventh.

Less than five minutes remaining and Button goes quickest in the first sector. However, he loses time in the next two sectors and can only manage 31.568 which puts him sixth, behind his Brawn teammate.

Kubica, Buemi, Fisichella, Glock and Bourdais still in the danger zone with less than three minutes remaining.

With ninety seconds remaining, the Top 15 are in the pits, clearly convinced that there will be no improvements. That said, with the first spots of rain beginning to appear, it looks like it could be a good call.

Sure enough, there are no improvements and therefore we lose Kubica, Buemi, Fisichella, Glock and Bourdais at the first hurdle. For the Frenchman, according to paddock speculation, this could well be his last Grand Prix.

Quickest in Q1 was Webber, ahead of Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Barrichello, Button, Rosberg, Massa, Trulli and Heidfeld.

As the lights go green for Q2, the rain is increasing in intensity. However, everyone is keen to get out as soon as possible a post a banker time just in case conditions worsen. Nakajima leads the way and it isn't long before the Japanese driver runs into trouble sliding off on to the wide tarmac run off.

Hamilton has a moment as does Massa, consequently all the drivers return to the pits for intermediates bar Webber who takes a huge gamble by staying out for another lap on his super-softs.

As Webber makes his way back to the pits to fit Intermediates, the other fourteen drivers are on track. The rain now falling even harder.

Kovalainen goes wide almost clouting the concrete barriers, as Alonso posts the first time of the phase, crossing the line at 43.931. Within seconds, six drivers have gone quicker, with Hamilton leading the way from Sutil.

Webber goes quickest in the first sector and again in the second. The Australian crosses the line at 38.038 to go quickest, ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen.

Barrichello switches to dry tyres, indeed, super-softs, and on his out lap goes quickest in the first two sectors. In the pits, Kovalainen is fitted with inters but he wants dry tyres.

Barrichello goes quickest with a 34.469 despite being impeded by Nakajima. Shortly after, Nakajima and Vettel collide in the pitlane, not a good day for the Williams driver.

The rain is now falling harder, and the driver and engineers appear unclear what way to go re tyres.

Piquet goes second and Sutil third, as Alonso struggles in the worsening conditions. He spins and appears to slide forever, somehow keeping it out of the gravel trap. Elsewhere, Raikkonen has an off also.

Kovalainen improves to sixth only to be demoted by Button and then Hamilton, as Barrichello remains pace-setter.

Therefore at the second hurdle we lose Heidfeld, Alonso, Nakajima, Trulli and Rosberg.

Quickest was Barrichello, ahead of Piquet, Sutil, Webber, Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Kovalainen, Massa and Raikkonen.

The lights go green for Q3 and after a short wait Button finally gets things underway. The rain has stopped, indeed, the track appears dry, probably thanks to the strong wind.

Button opts not to post a time and returns to the pits as teammate Barrichello posts the benchmark, crossing the line at 32.797. Moments later, Webber goes second, demoting Massa to third.

A 33.182 sees Vettel go second, as Sutil goes fifth, the German really on a roll.

Button goes quickest in the first sector, as Kovalainen goes fourth, ahead of Raikkonen and Massa. Elsewhere, Sutil improves to fourth.

Button can only manage ninth (37.208), with Hamilton yet to post a time. Kovalainen goes fourth, ahead of Sutil, as Button and Hamilton trade fastest sectors.

Hamilton takes provisional pole with a 2.616 as Button goes second, however, Barrichello splits the British duo with a 32.655.

Webber, Vettel and Button are al on hot laps, the Australian going quickest with a 2.230. Vettel goes second, only to be demoted by Button who crosses the line at 32.473 who is himself bumped down by Barrichello (32.357).

"You did it Mark, P1, job done," Webber is told, the Australian remaining remarkable calm considering it is his first F1 pole.

Barrichello will join the Red Bull driver on the front row for tomorrow's race, ahead of Button, Vettel, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Sutil, Massa, Raikkonen and Piquet.

A strange session, but nonetheless a well deserved maiden pole for the popular Australian driver. Let's see if he can convert this into a maiden win.

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    Published: 11/07/2009
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