Massa Returns To The Top
June 30, 2007 | 7:51 A.M. EST
After enduring two difficult race weekends in North America, Massa returned to his top form during qualifying at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, setting a fast lap of 1:15.034 to hold off championship leader Lewis Hamilton and earn his fourth pole of the 2007 campaign.
"For sure it is definitely a good weekend for us," said Massa. "We prove already in (testing at) Silverstone that what happened in the last few races was a bit opposite to what we faced in the last test.
Massa, who was quickest in Friday’s second practice session at the 2.741-mile course, set his fast time of record with just under four minutes remaining in the 15-minute period. Unlike the majority of races completed this season, Massa’s pace held up as no other driver improved in the waning moments.
Throughout this year, the norm has been that pole position is usually decided in the final minute.
Hamilton was quickest in today’s final practice and the first two qualifying queues, but will start alongside Massa from the front row after finishing with a fast lap of 1:15.104 in the top-10 deciding qualifying queue three.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica and ING Renault F1 Team’s Giancarlo Fisichella round out the top five.
Further back, the day went from positive to absolutely dreadful for two-time defending World Champion Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was in contention for a top-four starting position based on his previous times today, but a gearbox problem at the start of the third and final qualifying period did not allow him to set a time, relegating him to a 10th place finish in the session.
While bitterly disappointed, the 2005 Grand Prix of France winner is looking forward to Sunday’s race, which is expected to be competed under rain conditions.
"If something like this happens to my rivals tomorrow and if I manage to score good points I'm sure I won't remember today's frustration, but it is disappointing to not be able to complete a single lap," Alonso said. "But maybe tomorrow I'll be the lucky one and the rest will be unlucky.
Heikki Kovalainen, Nick Heidfeld, Jarno Trulli, and Nico Rosberg finished ahead of Alonso to take positions six through nine respectively.
In the first of three qualifying queues, it was pretty much business as usual with the top three teams in the sport at this moment – McLaren, Ferrari and BMW – setting the quickest times. At the bottom were Vitantonio Liuzzi, Alexander Wurz, Takuma Sato, Anthony Davidson, Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil. These drivers will start from positions 17-22 on race day.
To make matters worse for Super Aguri’s Sato, even though he is listed 19th, he will have to start from the rear of the field due to a penalty assessed to him at the United States Grand Prix two weekends ago.
The second 15-minute qualifying session provided much of the same as the first at the top of the speed charts, while the eliminated list of drivers included 2003 French GP winner Ralf Schumacher, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber, Scott Speed and 2000 France winner David Coulthard. They will start from positions 11-16.
The Grand Prix of France is scheduled to take the green flag at 8 a.m. (ET) on Sunday. Tape delayed coverage of the 70-lap event will be available on FOX beginning at 1 p.m. (ET).