French GP Qualifying Report

Another all-red front row, this time with Kimi Raikkonen taking the coveted pole position, his second this season and the sixteenth of his career, with his Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team-mate, Felipe Massa alongside him in second place, a mere four hundredths of a second behind. In fact, while the Finn took pole, it was the Brazilian who claimed the fastest lap of the day in the low-fuel configuration used in Q1.The big statistical story of the day also belongs to the Scuderia as this was pole position number two hundred for the team: they date back to 1951 and the second year of the World Championship when Ferrari drivers started from the number one spot three times. There was a truly dominant performance in 1974 with the Prancing Horse galloping to ten poles, while the record so far is 2004, when the team had twelve to its name.

As usual at this track, the gaps between the cars are all very close. Third place went to the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, followed by Fernando Alonso in the Renault. Fifth fastest was the Toyota of Jarno Trulli, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen in the second McLaren-Mercedes. Championship leaders BMW-Sauber do not seem to be on top form in France and Canada race winner Robert Kubica is seventh, with team-mate Nick Heidfeld down in twelfth.

However, while the first row is very definitely a Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro affair, the rest of the top places on the actual grid bear little relation to the actual qualifying time sheet.

Lewis Hamilton will actually start from thirteenth, because he takes a ten place penalty for crashing into the back of Raikkonen's F2008 in Montreal a fortnight ago in that pit lane incident.

To make matter worse for McLaren-Mercedes, the Stewards deemed that Kovalainen had impeded another competitor this afternoon and given him a five place penalty. The Finn will start from tenth, because he was technically fifth because of the previous penalty for his team-mate. So behind Kimi and Felipe, the order is now Alonso, Trulli, Kubica and Webber rounding off the top six.

If the grid has turned out to be unpredictable, today's weather could be the same as the forecast for race start time at two o'clock is for isolated showers. 

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