Qualifying: Brazilian GP 2008

A change of plans means I’m here for qualifying rather than watching away from home. Golfing in heavy rain is not fun plus its bloody cold outside..

ITV’s coverage started at 3.10pm. Some of their pre-qual show will be repeated before the race and I’ll cover it then.

A group has gathered with Coulthard. Just away from them, Gil de Ferran is talking to Louise, he says DC is one of the best British drivers of all time, or who has ever lived. Ha! No he isn’t!

ITV doing a season recap complete with dramatic music. Maybe I would feel more awake if I’d shaved today. Now they are talking to Jenson – maybe he would have had a better season if he’d shaved that stupid beard away. He says they’ve been working on the 2009 car since last year because they already knew the ’08 car wasn’t very good! Everyone is shooting at ’09 because of the regulation changes.

ITV are showing a recap of their 12 years of covering F1. Unfortunately they are using My Chemical Romance as the backing track. Oh no… they’ve got people from F1 miming the words! Ha! That’s funny AND cringeworthy at the same time. Hopefully someone will put it on YouTube so I can include it here later in the week.

We’re live with commentary now at 3.58pm. Listen to the crowd! Like a football stadium. Only at Interlagos! THIS is why it should stay as the final round of the championship, none of that glossy corporate bullshit here. Abu Dhabi might look great but it won’t have this atmosphere. They are apparently showing shots of Hamilton and Massa on the big screens and getting this reaction.

This is the shortest lap of the season at just over 70 seconds.

Qualifying 1 (20 mins, 20 drivers, any fuel load)
4pm, green light, Piquet is the first car on track.

Piquet sets the first time at 1:13.208.
Barrichello is wearing a differently-coloured helmet this weekend in respect of his mentor, ex driver, some guy from the 70s who I’ve not heard of before.

Massa is on track, crowd go wild! Hamilton leaves the pits.

13 minutes to go and 9 drivers have set a time, Trulli is fastest.

Massa’s first lap puts him 3rd. Kovalainen is 2nd. Raikkonen 6th. Hamilton’s first lap puts him top, just. The top teams may not be using new tyres, they should get through this stage without them but may go again with a set in a minute.

Alonso is on track. As usual the BMWs are leaving it until the last minute.
There’s a spun Toyota causing a yellow at turn one. Glock. You can’t improve your time under yellow so that’ll ruin a few people’s runs.

BMW are out on track as pretty much everyone else pits, so they have a nice clear track. Still they only get 11th and 14th.

5 minutes to go, who is not going to make it?
Rosberg, Coulthard, Fisichella, Bourdais and Sutil so far.

Helmet cam from Coulthard!
Brundle says it needs to be a touch higher so you get the driver’s eye view of peering over the chassis. DC goes 12th.

Massa is going again for some reason, he is 5th and not in danger. Feeling the grip? Changing the car?
Massa goes fastest, there’s a roar from the crowd!

2mins to go, cars are pouring out of the pits for their final run.

Chequered flag, drivers on a lap can complete their run.
Cars are streaming across the line one after the other.

Massa fastest at 1:11.830, then Raikkonen, Hamilton, Alonso, Glock, Trulli, Piquet, Kovalainen, Heidfeld, Kubica, Vettel, Webber, Bourdais, Barrichello and Coulthard for the top 15.
Knocked out are Nakajima, Button, Rosberg, Fisichella and Sutil.

Both Williams are out! Rubens made it through. Kovy will need to do better if he’s going to be rear-gunner to Hamilton, he’ll be needed to fight off Alonso tomorrow.

ITV have time for a quick ad break and a chat to Mark in the paddock.

Qualifying 2 (15 mins, 15 drivers, any fuel load)
Back to James and Martin, we see Button chatting to a photographer, James says ‘we think he ran out of fuel just a few hundred yards before the pits’. Speculation that Bruno Senna may be at Honda next season.

Green light and both Toyotas are first to jump.
Talk of fuel loads. You have to take a lot of fuel out at this track to have any difference on lap time because of the short lap. Also the teams want to avoid the soft tyre tomorrow.

Meanwhile this is the low-fuel banzai session to make the top ten. Glock sets the first time in 1:12.331.
Massa, Kimi and Lewis are on track. Each take turns as fastest.

Louise with Rosberg, he says they knew they’d have trouble with tyres graining but not that bad.
8mins to go and positions are changing every ten seconds!
Glock goes 3rd. Brundle says something like that is going to happen today, a Glock or Alonso getting up there amongst it, among the title fight.

The track is dry and has been throughout. Rain is expected at some stage tomorrow.

On the bubble at the moment are Bourdais, Kubica, Webber, Coulthard and Barrichello but we’re talking fractions of a second behind the rest of them. This is CLOSE. Anyone could be knocked out. The top 14 are within 1 second of 1st. Kovalainen goes fastest!

McLaren and Ferrari are sending Lewis and Kimi out, Felipe has stayed in. They wouldn’t normally do this but it is so close at this track they can’t take the risk.

Short quiet period as people refuel, change tyres, or are on out-laps. 2 minutes to go.

Kimi stays P5. Hmm. Heidfeld aborts.

VETTEL 2ND!! As the chequered flag waves Sebastian takes 2nd position, amazing. Nobody else is improving on their earlier times.

Bourdais up to P8, knocking out Piquet. Kubica is also out. Hamilton aborted his lap and pitted. Martin suggests he may have just been putting a heat cycle through the tyres.

Kovalainen was fastest on 1:11.768, then Vettel, Hamilton, Massa, Glock, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Bourdais, Alonso and Trulli.
Knocked out were Piquet, Webber, Kubica, Coulthard and Barrichello.

Both RBRs are out and both STRs made it through – again!

ITV take a quick ad break while the top ten add race fuel.
Chat with Coulthard, who is struggling with graining tyres and not happy to be out already. See what he can do tomorrow.

Qualifying 3 (10 mins, 10 drivers, race fuel)
Green light, short pause before Toyota is again the first to jump with Glock.

Martin says this is a rewarding race track, you’ve got to attack it and get it right. It’s narrower than most new tracks and that’s a good thing, it makes the cars look faster and dominate the track.

Glock’s first time is 1:14.311, Vettel smashes that with a 1:13.155. Times are slower because of the extra fuel.

Hamilton and Massa on track at the same time, Massa to cross the line first. He’s quickest in 1:12.453. Hamilton is 3rd in 1:13.252. Massa could be going light to secure pole.
Hamilton has dropped to 6th with other cars improving, he did have a wiggle in turn 2.

The crowd are going crazy! Massa has pitted and is going again. Everyone on their out laps for the final run. Massa will cross the line first, then Hamilton, Kimi and Heikki.

Massa improves to 1:12.368
Hamilton 1:12.830
Kimi 1:12.825 for 2nd
Alonso 5th
Trulli goes 2nd!!
Heikki takes 5th, he improved but not by enough.

Massa in 1:12.368, then Trulli, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Kovalainen, Alonso, Vettel, Heidfeld, Bourdais and Glock.

Massa smokes them by half of a second. Hamilton starts alongside Raikkonen, with Alonso directly behind him.
Expect Trulli to pit early tomorrow, probably Massa too. How will that play out if it rains?

Press conf (heavily edited highlights):
Massa – “So nice to be here. We have 73 laps tomorrow which is very long but it is always better to start on pole. I will try to do my best tomorrow to win the race.”
Trulli, Toyota’s first front-row start since 2005 – “I thought I wasn’t going to make it for Friday because I was feeling really bad.” He thanks the engineers and doctor. “I really played my cards during qualifying, saved my tyres. It shows the progress made by Toyota during this season. Our car could be good tomorrow but we need temperature, we need sun!”
Raikkonen – “I did more or less what I was suppose to do. I prefer to be 3rd than 2nd, here it is a good place to start.”

Kimi’s talking about the run to the first corner. You can expect someone to be pushed a long way outside if they are on the right-hand side of the grid – like Hamilton is.

Louise with Lewis, worried about Massa on pole? – “I’m not worried. I just need to bring the car home in the points.” He talks too quickly and I can’t pause live TV so that’s all you’re getting from him.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to David Coulthard as a driver (and maybe Rubens Barrichello), to ITV as British broadcaster of F1, to those stupid grooved tyres, and to decent-looking F1 cars. Next year we will have BBC, slick tyres and crazy wings. I’ll be writing about all of these changes over the coming weeks.

If the atmosphere was this good today, imagine tomorrow! You are NOT going to miss this one.

I’m off to watch Simon Cowell make a fool of himself on X Factor. Enjoy the race!

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