Team-by-team summary: Saturday, Italy

Sat, 13 September 2008, 08:39

It is no surprise when Toro Rosso, whooping up the paddock after a stunningly competitive Saturday, was very tardy with its post-qualifying media statement, after Sebastian Vettel netted the former Minardi team’s first ever top grid spot, and the 21-year-old booked a page in history by becoming the sport’s youngest ever pole sitter. “It’s obvious we haven’t got the heaviest fuel load in the world,” said Giorgio Ascanelli. Behind the fellow Red Bull-branded Mark Webber in a near identical car, Vettel’s teammate Sebastien Bourdais qualified fourth, albeit most of a full second behind pole.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton did not take part in the Q3 proceedings, and he was actually the slowest runner of the Q2 segment, after unwisely deciding to try intermediate tyres just as it started to rain harder. Once on full wets, he could not find enough pace and will line up just 15th on the grid. “We were caught out by a less than fully accurate weather forecast,” team boss Ron Dennis complained. Heikki Kovalainen was fast throughout qualifying and shares the front row of the grid with Vettel.

The fizzy Red Bull and other beverages will be flowing freely in the Energy Station on Saturday night, after Webber joined his junior stablemate Vettel in the post-session press conference. David Coulthard was nearly a second slower in Q2 and lines up 13th, but team boss Christian Horner was pleased with the overall result: “Three Red Bull chassis in the first four is a fantastic result.”

Nico Rosberg’s good weekend continued on Saturday: third in the sodden morning and similarly competitive in qualifying, bagging fifth on the grid. “We didn’t compromise too much for qualifying and we have a good strategy plan for the race,” the German said. Although quite quick in the morning, Kazuki Nakajima dropped out in Q1.

P6 doesn’t seem impressive, but given fellow title pretender Hamilton’s struggles, Felipe Massa is quite happy after he managed to scrape through in the difficult Q2 session and then qualify sixth. “It could have been better, but it could also have been much worse,” he said. The Brazilian also fared better than his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who will start one place higher than Hamilton. “In the wet we are not competitive at the highest level,” team boss Stefano Domenicali admits.

The Toyota drivers must be praising the heavens, with the TF108 proving slow in the dry but never lower than P9 on soaking Saturday — with Timo Glock even topping morning practice. In qualifying he dropped back to ninth, with Jarno Trulli qualifying 7th. “It was a difficult last ten minutes but we are still in good shape for tomorrow,” said Glock.

Nelson Piquet has struggled in the wet at Monza, including in qualifying, when he dropped out in Q1. Fernando Alonso participated in all three segments, however, and is eighth on the grid.

Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld both did a 1.36.6 laptime in Q2, but the German driver just managed to scrape through to the final ten runout, while Kubica is 11th. “The last laps were disappointing,” said Heidfeld. “Instead of more grip I got less. We now have to figure out why this happened.”

The usually backmarking Force Indias were in the midfield in the wet morning, but Adrian Sutil – usually always strong on a slippery track – will start the race from dead last. “I changed tyres and suddenly we lost all the grip,” he said. Giancarlo Fisichella on the other hand raced through Q1 and came within a whisker of joining the grandee top-ten action. “With the predicted rain I think the race will be very exciting,” said the Roman.

With a slow car in the dry, Honda is always hoping for rain these days, but Jenson Button – faster only than Force India’s Sutil – on Saturday described his RA108 as the worst car he has ever driven on a wet track. Rubens Barrichello was half a second faster but even that wasn’t enough for a berth in Q2.

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