Hockenheim- A question of balance

There are four drivers fighting within two points of one another for the Championship and this afternoon, two of them had an excellent day, claiming places on the front row, while the other two were less successful and find themselves in close company in sixth and seventh places.

Felipe Massa is the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro man on the front row, in second place for tomorrow's tenth round of the World Championship, the German Grand Prix, while the other F2008 of Kimi Raikkonen is two rows further back in sixth place, just ahead of the BMW-Sauber of Robert Kubica.

The Finn has struggled all weekend to get his car balanced to his liking, as track conditions have been significantly different to those experienced when he drove here in last week's test.

For the third time this season, Lewis Hamilton will start from pole position in his McLaren-Mercedes. His team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen starts behind him in third, with the Toyota of Jarno Trulli alongside him. Fernando Alonso in the Renault is fifth.

This afternoon's story pretty much reflects the state of play since Friday morning practice, in that there has been very little to choose between the Prancing Horse and the Silver Arrows and, at least in Felipe's case, that is likely to be the story in the race until the first run of pit stops when the usual question about how much fuel each driver is running, will finally be answered.

The fuel effect - how much the weight of fuel affects lap times - is in the order of 0.35 seconds per lap at the Hockenheimring.

The track layout is also quite tough on brakes and of course, these have a harder time with a heavier fuel load, so the strategy choices are finely balanced.

In other words, it should be an exciting battle over 67 laps of the 4.574 kilometre track, assuming the main protagonists all escape unscathed the opening lap, which has a history of being chaotic at times here. Starting from the third row,

Kimi will be hoping that any unusual events will play into his hands, but in any case, the F2008 usually comes into its own over a long distance.

Although the weather is far from summery this weekend, at least the forecast, which has been reasonably accurate over the past two days, suggests the race should be run entirely in dry conditions. 

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