McLaren Mercedes driver Heikki Kovalainen will start Sunday's Santander Italian Grand Prix at Monza from the front row of the grid. In Saturday's wet qualifying session, Kovalainen battled heavy rain to set second-fastest time of 1:37.631.
In contrast, an error from Lewis Hamilton in terms of tyre choice saw the championship leader on track on the wrong tyre in the very wet conditions. A switch followed to the full wet tyres, but it was too late and he lines up a distant 15th.
Heikki Kovalainen"A really close session; I missed pole by just .076 seconds. My first attempt in Q3 wasn’t perfect and further rain later in the session made it almost impossible to improve. On my final run, I gave it everything but there wasn’t enough grip to beat Sebastian Vettel. But congratulations to him on his first pole. Nevertheless, second on the grid is still a good basis for tomorrow; our car has shown good pace in both the wet and the dry so I’m feeling confident."
Lewis Hamilton"It was a joint decision to go out on wet-weather tyres at the start of Q2 - partly mine and partly my engineers’. We thought it was the right way to go at the time because it was getting dryer but the grip-level was poor so I came in and switched to extremes. By the time I got out, it had begun to rain and I just missed the window when the track was at its fastest; it was also very hard to pick out the braking points. It's the first time this has happened to me in Formula 1, so I can't really complain - tomorrow's another day and we still have a fighting chance to make our way up the grid. I'll be doing the best job I can."
Ron Dennis"Heikki performed tremendously well this afternoon, and his P2 grid slot for tomorrow is a fully deserved reward. As for Lewis, the weather conditions made things difficult for everyone, not only us, and in addition to that we were caught out by a less-than-fully accurate weather forecast. As things turned out, there was only a narrow window of opportunity in which to cut a quick lap, and things didn't fall kindly for Lewis."
"But the weather may be unsettled tomorrow, too, and if so he should still be in a position to score a good result even though he'll be starting from a lowlier grid position than he would ideally have preferred. Lastly, I want to congratulate Sebastian Vettel and my old friend Gerhard Berger, of the Scuderia Toro Rosso team, on the occasion of their first ever pole position. But Heikki has a very good strategy for tomorrow so let's see what happens."