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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Massa puts Ferrari on pole as Alonso hits trouble

Ferrari's Felipe Massa will start Sunday's French Grand Prix from pole position, with the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton alongside him and team mate Kimi Raikkonen right behind.

World champion Fernando Alonso, however, is only tenth on the provisional grid after his car was struck down with gearbox problems early in the final phase of qualifying, preventing him from setting a time.

With the Spaniard out of the running, what looked set to be an epic climax to the fight between silver and red ultimately failed to materialise - Massa, Hamilton and Raikkonen were all unable to improve their positions after their first Q3 runs.

Thus Massa retained pole, with a lap of 1m 15.034s, while Hamilton shaved down from 1m 15.185s to 1m 15.104s, which was not sufficient to affect his front row position after he lost a little momentum in Turn 15, and Raikkonen remained third on 1m 15.257s.

Behind them, Giancarlo Fisichella bumped Robert Kubica from fourth with a lap of 1m 15.674s for Renault, only to have the BMW Sauber driver retake the position with 1m 15.493s in the two teams’ war over third place in the constructors’ championship.

Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen once again backed team mate Fisichella strongly with sixth place on 1m 15.826s, pipping Nick Heidfeld who was sufficiently recovered from Friday’s back problems to lap his BMW Sauber in 1m 15.900s. Jarno Trulli was Toyota’s only runner to make Q3, and will start eighth on 1m 15.935s, and Nico Rosberg once again got his Williams through for ninth place and 1m 16.328s.

Ralf Schumacher celebrated his birthday with 11th place on 1m 15.534s, albeit as the first not to get through to Q3, and will have former BMW Williams team mate Jenson Button for company on row six, the Englishman lapping his Honda in 1m 15.584s. Button’s team mate Rubens Barrichello was 13th on 1m 15.761s, ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber on 1m 15.806s. Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed (1m 16.049s) and David Coulthard (no time, after not running in Q2 due to gearbox problems) were 15th and 16th.

Tonio Liuzzi was the first faller in Q1, lapping his Toro Rosso in 1m 16.142s to lose out to Barrichello by two-thousands of a second. Alex Wurz was 18th for Williams on 1m 16.241s, followed by Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson for Super Aguri (1m 16.244s and 1m 16.366s respectively) and the Spykers of Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil (1m 17.826s and 1m 17.915s before his car rolled to a halt in Turn 9).

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