Before the qualifying session to decide the grid for today's Canadian Grand Prix got underway, everyone was expecting a very closely fought contest and so it turned out to be.
Unfortunately, the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro duo were not really able to fight for the front row positions. This had nothing to do with the performance potential of the F2008, which has been ultra competitive all weekend, but was all down to unusual circumstances which saw the track surface begin to break up in the hot weather, especially at Turn 10, the hairpin, which leads onto the final straight before the pits.
Although often fastest through the first two sectors of the lap, the degrading surface seemed to penalize the Prancing Horse more than the other front runners. The result of this unusual handicap is that reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen will start from third spot - at least he has the advantage of being on the clean side of the track - and Felipe Massa is on the outside of row 3, in sixth place.
For the second year in succession, pole position went to current series leader, Lewis Hamilton and his McLaren Mercedes and the Englishman shares the front row with BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica. Row 2 is an all-world champion affair, as Kimi has the Fernando Alonso on his outside.
Alongside Felipe, and securing his best qualifying of the year, is Nico Rosberg in the Williams. Track officials had tried to repair bits of the track that were crumbling prior to the morning session, but almost as soon as qualifying began, "marbles" of tarmac were already been thrown up as the cars scrabbled for grip on this always slippery track.
The problem might be down to poor resurfacing or it might be just a fact of life in a part of Canada that has very cold winters followed by some hot summer weather. FIA officials are currently assessing the situation to see what can be done prior to the start of tomorrow afternoon's 70 lap race, which gets underway earlier than usual at one o'clock in the afternoon local time.
The track breaking up is not a completely new phenomenon, as back in the early Eighties, the Belgian Grand Prix experienced unusually hot weather, the track deteriorated and the race had to be cancelled. There is no talk of this happening in Canada on Sunday. Only 19 cars took part in qualifying today, as Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso damaged its monocoque in the morning session. The German will therefore start from pit lane tomorrow.
On Wednesday in Montreal, Kimi and Felipe met up with another Ferrari race driver called Patrice Brisebois. His name is famous in Canada, but not for his race driving. Brisebois is a top ice hockey player, a "defence man" for the Montreal Canadiens team. He organized a private game at the Canadiens ice rink for some of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team, including the two drivers and maybe he was hoping for some driving tips in return as he is also competing in the North American Ferrari Challenge, the one-make series that will be a support race to the F1 Grand Prix today. Last year, Brisebois nearly made it to the Montreal podium, but in the end had to settle for fourth place.