– Media Release: ESPN


MAGNY-COURS, France — World champion Kimi Raikkonen handed Ferrari its 200th Formula One pole position at the French Grand Prix on Saturday.Brazilian Felipe Massa, who took pole at Magny-Cours last year, was second-fastest to secure the Italian team’s third front-row sweep of the season.

The pole, the 16th of Raikkonen’s grand prix career, left the Finn perfectly placed to repeat his 2007 victory at the circuit.

Poland’s Robert Kubica, the championship leader for BMW-Sauber after his victory in Canada earlier this month, qualified seventh but will start fifth because both McLaren drivers ahead of him were penalized.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton qualified third but will start 13th as a punishment for crashing into Raikkonen in the Canadian Grand Prix pit lane. McLaren’s teammate Heikki Kovalainen was dropped to 10th for impeding Australian Mark Webber‘s Red Bull on Saturday.

Hamilton’s demotion left Renault’s double-world champion Fernando Alonso sharing the second row with Italian Jarno Trulli in a Toyota.

Kubica leads Hamilton and Massa by four points in the championship, with Raikkonen another three back.

“It’s the best possible chance to win the race from the first place and the car has been good all weekend, so hopefully we will get some good points here,” said Raikkonen, who has failed to score in his two previous starts.

“It’s going to be a long race. I’m pretty sure we have a good race car but as we’ve seen before, anything can happen.”

Raikkonen failed to finish in Canada after the pit lane collision and drew a blank in Monaco after running into the back of Adrian Sutil‘s Force India while in fifth place. But he has never failed to finish in France.

“It’s very nice for the whole team but I am just a small part of it,” he said of the landmark pole, 57 years after the first pole won by Argentine Jose Froilan Gonzalez at Silverstone in 1951.

“I am happy to achieve their 200th one … but nothing else really changes.”

Raikkonen finished second in France for McLaren in 2005 after starting from the 13th spot, and Hamilton took comfort from that statistic.

Hamilton, who had led the championship standings before his Montreal gaffe, blamed himself Saturday, however, for errors on the exit to Turn 7 on both of his quick laps that he said had cost him “a good chunk of time.

“It’s quite a disappointing qualifying, I think, for me. I have to apologize to the team, I didn’t do a great job at all,” Hamilton said.

“I was pushing and trying to get the best out of the car and I did in most areas except that one. We just missed out but we will push very hard tomorrow.”

He had no illusions about the task ahead, however.

“It’s tough. We’re here to race and compete for wins. When you know that you don’t have a chance of doing that then it puts you on the back foot,” said Hamilton.

“If we can pull off some points from this weekend it will be a major bonus.”

Webber will start on the third row with British teammate David Coulthard behind in the seventh spot.

Germany’s Nico Rosberg, also involved in Hamilton’s Montreal crash and penalized 10 places, starts at the back for Williams. France’s only grand prix driver, Sebastien Bourdais, qualified 14th for Toro Rosso.

Brazilian Nelson Piquet, still without a point, will make his first top-10 start after being moved up to ninth place.





1 Comment

  1. I didn’t know that Raikkonen used to race for Ferrari! I follow him in Lotus but had no idea. Nice stuff, simply nice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.