F1: Hamilton stands firm as track crumbles
By Andy Darley
Saturday, June 7th, 2008
Lewis Hamilton made short work of a treacherous, crumbling track to seize a dominant pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.
Robert Kubica threatened briefly with a lap that put him on provisional pole, but the McLaren driver struck back with a 1m 17.886s effort that squashed his BMW rival by a full 0.6 seconds.
“To achieve pole position here in Canada at the same place where I took my first Formula One pole just one year ago is really awesome,” he said.
Lap times varied wildly as drivers sought a safe line through the debris thrown up by the disintegrating track – Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Nelson Piquet and Mark Webber all span their cars, the Red Bull driver damaging his to the extent that he was unable to take his place in the third qualifying session.
“I’m not sure how they’re going to manage with the track tomorrow, but everyone’s in the same boat. I think we’ll need to use motocross bikes, as it’s not realistic in a Formula One car,” he said afterwards.
The worst part of the track was the hairpin in sector three, and the need to take it slowly sank the Ferraris’ chances of the front row. Kimi Raikkonen, who ended up third, said: “It’s unbelievable how much time I lost at turn 10, lap after lap.
“The track was already beginning to break up in Q1 and I had no drive: it was like driving on ice and I never managed to find the right line at this point. It’s a real shame because the car was going very well and I could have fought for pole position,” he said.
Throughout the second session, Webber and Fernando Alonso had been posting times that put them right up with the leaders – and Alonso continued that form into the pole shoot-out to take fourth place on the grid. “The race is now totally open and that gives us the chance to score some big points,” he said.
Nico Rosberg, who was fastest in the morning practice but slipped back to a still-impressive fifth ahead of Felipe Massa, said: “I am especially happy with my position in qualifying because it was very difficult – not just because the track has changed a lot from yesterday and even from this morning, but also because the surface was breaking up in various locations.
“The grip had dropped away, so the aim today was not to make a mistake as it would be heavily punished by simply going five or ten centimetres off-line.”
Hamilton said: “Our car feels good and we’re really on top of our game – even though the track started breaking up in places.
“On my penultimate lap in the third part of qualifying I lost a bit of time when I ran wide and I knew that Robert and Kimi were chasing me so I was aware I had to give it my all.
“On my final lap, I found more than six tenths which was enough for pole position. Thank you to everybody in the team, I hope I will be able to reward them tomorrow with a similar result.”
David Coulthard qualified 13th, having never looked like making the top 10. He recalled the track breaking up in a similar way two years previously.
“The track was swept between the first and second,” he said. “When you’ve got that amount of horsepower on a car that’s slipping and sliding, it’s incredibly difficult.
“I think we had the pace to run inside the top ten today, but I had traffic on the last runs of both sessions. On the first I was behind Bourdais, and on the second behind Piquet. It’s unfortunate to have a continued series of problems, but we’re thirteenth tomorrow, and hopefully we can have a strong race from there.”
Jenson Button barely participated in qualifying and was saved from last place only by the woes of Toro Rosso, who lost Sebastian Vettel to a heavy crash and Sebastien Bourdais to a light one.
Button said: “I had a problem with third gear right at the start of Q1 which meant that I had no drive and that was the end of my qualifying today. It’s been a pretty tough weekend for us and it’s very disappointing to be starting from the back of the grid. We will just have to see how the race develops and take advantage of any opportunities which might arise.”