Kovalainen achieves maiden pole at Silverstone

Kovalainen British GP 08

Heikki Kovalainen claimed his maiden pole position at the British Grand Prix, while his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton was demoted down to fourth place after making a costly mistake on his first flying lap.

It should have been Hamilton taking the top spot as he had the quickest car around the Silverstone circuit. But that oversteer moment into Priory cost him time. Despite this set back, Lewis still has the opportunity to do well in the race even though his team-mate is at the front of the grid.

Heikki’s pole position time of one minute, 21.049 seconds was half a second quicker than the nearest rival, that of Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber. To qualify ahead of the Ferraris is an impressive achievement for the team and the Australian. It will be fascinating if Webber has the pace or the right fuel strategy to match the top runners in the 60-lap race.

World champion Kimi Raikkonen will start in third place with home crowd favourite Lewis Hamilton joining him on the second row. It wasn’t a great performance from the Scuderia, as both Raikkonen and Felipe Massa seemed to lack the outright speed that many were expected. It was quite a surprise to see the two red cars struggling in Q2. To line up third and ninth (Massa) was not the result the team were looking for.

For the first time this season, Nick Heidfeld outqualified his BMW Sauber team-mate Robert Kubica with fifth position. The German was able to generate enough heat into his Bridgestone (his main problem this year) to edge ahead of Kubica. The Polish driver was unable to set a competitive lap time in Q3 due to puncture and will start in tenth place.

Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet will line up in sixth and seventh respectively. The Brazilian is beginning to regain his confidence in the Renault R28 after a poor show earlier this year.

Sebastian Vettel continued his promising performance with ninth for Toro Rosso, one place ahead of world championship leader Felipe Massa. The Brazilian was heavy comprised in Q3 by a wheel-nut problem in the pits, meaning he missed the chance to set a competitive lap time. To line up on row five is a major disappointment for Felipe.

Two-time Silverstone winner David Coulthard will start the race in eleventh. It will be Scot’s final home race after announcing to the world’s press that he will retire at the end of this year’s championship.

As for the other British driver, Jenson Button got caught out in the brief rain shower in Q1 and was unable to set a lap time in the Honda. He will start the British Grand Prix in P17, behind his team-mate Rubens Barrichello.

Sunday’s race will be deeply fascinating as there is a slight possibility of rain. Can Heikki scored his dream result for McLaren by winning in front of the passionate British crowd? Does Webber have the genuine pace to match him? What about Raikkonen and Hamilton? Can we expect the ‘Iceman’ and the Brit to stage a comeback drive and win the race? Let’s find out tomorrow in the penultimate race at Silverstone.

Qualifying times from Silverstone

1. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.049
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:21.554
3. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:21.706
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.835
5. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:21.873
6. Alonso Renault 1:22.029
7. Piquet Renault 1:22.491
8. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:23.251
9. Massa Ferrari 1:23.305
10. Kubica BMW Sauber 1:19.788
11. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:20.174
12. Glock Toyota 1:20.274
13. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.531
14. Trulli Toyota 1:20.601
15. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:21.112
16. Barrichello Honda 1:21.512
17. Button Honda 1:21.631
18. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:21.668
19. Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:21.786
20. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:21.885