Massa takes pole position in France

Brazilian Felipe Massa ended Lewis Hamilton’s two-race domination of Formula One by taking pole position ahead of the young Briton on Saturday for Sunday’s French Grand Prix.

The Latin-American Ferrari driver clocked a fastest lap in the final segment of qualifying with a time of one minute, 15,034 seconds after a close contest for the prime grid position.

Hamilton, in his McLaren Mercedes-Benz, was second fastest with a time of 1:15,104 ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari. Poland’s Robert Kubica, making his comeback after a one-race absence due to injury, was fourth fastest for BMW Sauber.

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella in a Renault was fifth ahead of his teammate Finn Heikki Kovalainen, German Nick Heidfeld in the second BMW and Italian Jarno Trulli in a Toyota.

Defending double drivers’ world champion Fernando Alonso of Spain suffered another painfully disappointing session compared with his young tyro teammate Hamilton and wound up in 10th place on the grid.

The first part of the session saw Hamilton dart out of the McLaren garage and almost immediately produce the fastest lap of that period, a feat that proved his speed in the morning was a genuine threat to Ferrari’s earlier domination.

The two Ferraris were second and third fastest with Raikkonen and Massa respectively setting their best times.

But for the Spyker and Super Aguri teams, together with Williams’s Austrian Alex Wurz and Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi of Italy, it was a different story as all were eliminated after the opening runs.

German Adrian Sutil even suffered the indignity of his Spyker car stopping out on the track at turn nine after the chequered flag had fallen to end the session.

For the first time during the grand prix weekend at Magny-Cours, the sun also came out briefly and the air temperature rose to 24 degrees Celsius and the track to 44 degrees, a welcome change after days of cold and cloudy weather. This was good also for the teams and their tyres, helping to produce improved speed in qualifying.

In the second part-session, both Red Bull drivers Australian Mark Webber and Briton David Coulthard declined to run until Webber, alone, went out in the final minutes.

As a result, they were among the drivers eliminated and left to qualify in the middle of the grid.
This meant that the sixth row of the grid consisted of German Ralf Schumacher in a Toyota and Briton Jenson Button, in a Honda.

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello was 13th for Honda, Webber 14th, American Scott Speed 15th for Torro Rosso and Coulthard 16th.

Once again, Hamilton topped the times for the session with 1:14,795, a slight improvement, ahead of Massa and Raikkonen by one-10th of a second. Poland’s Robert Kubica was fourth fastest for BMW Sauber.

But in the final mini-session, when the cars carried heavier fuel loads for the race, Hamilton was swiftly outpaced by Raikkonen in the early stages, before the final scrap saw him regain top spot briefly and then lose out to Massa.—Sapa-AFP

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