A thrilling fight in prospect
The front row of the grid for tomorrow's penultimate round of the Formula 1 World Championship is a carbon copy of last Sunday's race in Fuji, with the McLaren-Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton on pole and the F2008 of Kimi Raikkonen alongside him in second place.
Whereas in Japan, Felipe Massa was on row 3, today, he set the third fastest time in qualifying, to line up behind the Englishman who leads him by five points in the Drivers' classification.
With the winner of the last two races, Fernando Alonso, alongside the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver, the scene is set for a thrilling 56 lap contest which starts at the later time of 3 pm local time. While Kimi was pleased that, working with the engineers, he now feels more comfortable with the car in qualifying trim, Felipe on the contrary was complaining of somewhat inconsistent performance from his car, but for both men, one thing is certain, the F2008 is at its best over a long run and should show good pace tomorrow.
The third row of the grid is currently made up of the second McLaren-Mercedes of Heikki Kovalainen and Nick Heidfeld, sixth in the BMW.
The German actually qualified seventh behind the Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber, but the Australian will drop ten places on the grid as he had to change an engine after the morning free practice. The situation is further complicated as Heidfeld is currently under investigation for allegedly blocking another competitor during Q1. If he was to also be given a penalty, then sixth spot would go to the Toro Rosso-Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel.
Last week the weather forecast for this weekend was dry on all three days.
However, in recent days the chances of rain predicted for Sunday have increased, so anything is possible. No one who was here could fail to remember the Typhoon that hit the track on Sunday night after the race, lasting into the following day. Hopefully, this won't be the case during the race itself, because, as we have seen in other races this season, a combination of bad weather, incidents and safety car appearances can turn a Grand Prix into a Grand Lottery.
Qualifying 1 Qualifying 2 Qualifying 3 1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.566 1:34.947 1:36.3032. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:35.983 1:35.355 1:36.6453. Massa Ferrari 1:35.971 1:35.135 1:36.8894. Alonso Renault 1:35.769 1:35.461 1:36.9275. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.623 1:35.216 1:36.9306. Webber * Red Bull-Renault 1:36.238 1:35.686 1:37.0837. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:36.224 1:35.403 1:37.2018. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:35.752 1:35.386 1:37.6859. Trulli Toyota 1:36.104 1:35.715 1:37.93410 Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:36.239 1:35.478 1:38.88511 Piquet Renault 1:36.029 1:35.72212 Kubica BMW Sauber 1:36.503 1:35.81413 Glock Toyota 1:36.210 1:35.93714 Barrichello Honda 1:36.640 1:36.07915 Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:36.434 1:36.21016 Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:36.73117 Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:36.86318 Button Honda 1:37.05319 Sutil Force India-Ferrari 1:37.73020 Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:37.739
Despite finishing in sixth position Mark Webber will lose that place due to an engine change penaltyand drop ten places on the grid - promoting those who finished behind him up one position.