Lewis Hamilton on pole again at Fuji (2008 Japanese GP qualifying)

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Lewis Hamilton claimed the 11th pole position of his career in Fuji

Lewis Hamilton will start the Japanese Grand Prix from pole position for the second year in a row.

And his hopes of taking a decisive lead in the championship were bolstered by Felipe Massa’s failure to qualify on the first two rows: Massa starts tomorrow’s crucial race from fifth on the grid.

Part one

Nick Heidfeld was eliminated in Q1 for the second time this year

Qualifying started on a largely dry track with a few damp patches off-line. The championship contenders quickly took up their places at top of the time sheets, with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Felipe Massa, and the pair followed by their respective team mates.

But as the session developed it became clear the drivers towards the rear of the field were finding much more time on their second efforts. Timo Glock demoted Hamilton from the top spot with a 1’18.138 set on medium compound tyres, and that meant every driver returned to the track hunting for a lap time improvement – apart from Nelson Piquet Jnr.

Hamilton went back on top of the times but Glock pipped him again, dipping under the 1’18s with a 1’17.945.

The battle of the bottom five claimed an unlikely scalp in the form of Nick Heidfeld. It wasn’t his first elimination during Q1 this year and with team mate Robert Kubica only 0.2s quicker it showed the BMWs were simply lacking pace. Less surprising was the round one elimination of the Hondas and Force Indias.

Bottom five drivers’ times for part one

16. Nick Heidfeld 1’18.835
17. Rubens Barrichello 1’18.882
18. Jenson Button 1’19.100
19. Adrian Sutil 1’19.163
20. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’19.910

Part two

Sebastien Bourdais scraped into Q3, knocking out David Coulthard on the way

The second part of qualifying began with most of the drivers opting for the soft tyres and the Ferraris in particular demonstrating significantly better pace on that tyre. Massa went quickest with a 1’17.287 – half a second quicker than Raikkonen, and 0.2s faster than Hamilton.

Massa and Hamilton were the only drivers who felt comfortable enough with their times not to go out for a second attempt. Nelson Piquet Jnr did his first lap later but could only manage 12th, sealing his fate.

Mark Webber failed to improve, staying 13th, with the two Williams behind him. And a late improvement by Sebastien Bourdais to tenth knocked David Coulthard out as well.

Bottom five drivers’ times for part two

11. David Coulthard 1’18.187
12. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’18.274
13. Mark Webber 1’18.354
14. Kazuki Nakajima 1’18.594
15. Nico Rosberg 1’18.672

Part three

Lewis Hamilton jumped from third to overhaul both Ferraris and take pole

The McLarens, Ferraris, Toyotas and Toro Rossos made it into Q3, along with Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica, the latter doing an impressive job given that his team mate was knocked out in Q1.

Having been half a second slower than Massa in Q2, Raikkonen suddenly popped into the top spot with his first attempt in Q3. Massa was second, just over a tenth slower, with Hamilton a few hundredths behind and Kovalainen 0.004s slower than his team mate.

Raikkonen improved on his second attempt and Massa couldn’t find any time to beat him with. But behind them both Hamilton went fastest of all in the first two sectors, and stole pole from Raikkonen by almost a quarter of a second.

It got worse for Massa as he was bumped off the second row. First Fernando Alonso beat his time by a scant 0.022s, then Kovalainen beat the pair of them to demote Massa to fifth.

Top ten drivers’ times for part three

1. Lewis Hamilton 1’18.404
2. Kimi Raikkonen 1’18.644
3. Heikki Kovalainen 1’18.821
4. Fernando Alonso 1’18.852
5. Felipe Massa 1’18.874
6. Robert Kubica 1’18.979
7. Jarno Trulli 1’19.026
8. Timo Glock 1’19.118
9. Sebastian Vettel 1’19.638
10. Sebastien Bourdais 1’20.167

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Keith Collantine
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31 comments on “Lewis Hamilton on pole again at Fuji (2008 Japanese GP qualifying)”

  1. Lewis’s lap might be as good as Massa’s at Singapore

  2. Looks like the stage is set for a cracking race tomorrow…!!

  3. According to my method (already explained) see below 1st pit stop predictions:

    HAM 20 -21
    RAIK 21-22
    KOV 28-29
    ALO 22-23
    MAS 27-28
    KUB 24-25

    So, bad news for Massa having Kovalainen in front with the same strategy. Kovalainen will be crucial for Hamilton tomorrow.

  4. Bad day for Massa. Heiki and Alonso in front of him. I don’t think he will be able to pass them to get position from Kimi.

    I predict, Lewis will take driver championship and Ferrari will take constructor championship this year.

  5. Agree with Rahzam. Hamilton looks strong now and he will take driver title this year…

  6. So, the pole just decides who the driver’s champion is going to be?

    There are several things that could happen in the race. ;)

  7. I am not sure Massa is going to go 6 or 7 laps further than Lewis as IDR suggests. I personally think it would have been way risky to overfuel him intentionally as they would want to have avoided exactly what happened.


  8. @ IDR

    That sounds interesting, where can I see the explanation for your method?

  9. With a straight so long i´m afraid Alonso will mean no trouble for massa, heikki we´ll see, that´s more possible to be a tough fight

  10. Very good lap from Kimi & Lewis. Massa struggled with the handling of the car

  11. Nick Caulfield
    11th October 2008, 9:35

    This is a big test for Massa. Many people rate him as a driver rather than a racer (including me) and so unless Kimi gets ahead of Lewis and deliberately holds him up (which could backfire anyway) Massa has no choice but to race here. The car should be up to the job.

    I look forward to being proved wrong. I’d also love to see a year where Ferrari won nothing and I love the way Lewis races so would love to see him as champion but I have nothing against Massa and if he earns the WDC I would applaud him for it.

    Go on Massa – bring the fight to the front!

  12. Hello:
    Well, Heiki is not the best starting, so i think Alonso and Massa will take him before the first corner.
    Kimi may be has the “option” sending Ham out with a pair of “Ice-Eggs”, and in this situation Massa will win, the ferrari is faster than the Renault.
    Something i see clear is Alonso on podium, Heiki will not make the work…
    Greetings :-) (and thanks for waking up early and report everything)

  13. Alejandro

    I explained in this thread: https://www.racefans.net/2008/09/06/belgian-gp-driver-fuel-load-predictions/

    (Comment 11)

    Of course is quite dificult to estimate real fuel loads. The method does not take in consideration differences in Driver performance between Q2 and Q3 that could affect the result, and I think this is something that will affect in this case, btw. L Hamilton has made an extraordinary final lap.


    In fact, Massa is not overfueled. Last year first pit stop were in lap 27-28. The question is L Hamilton, Kimi and F Alonso are lighter.

    I personally think Massa and Ferrari have been overconfident thinking McLaren were going to be conservative in their strategy, or maybe is Felipe Massa who has done a bad Q3, who knows…

  14. IDR I understand where you come from with your predictions although I believe in this case that you are wrong, both Kimi and Lewis admitted of being fueled heavy while Massa admitted a mistake, I think we are looking at perhaps the front row actually heavier than the second row this time. All just speculations of course till tomorrow.

    Edit: this is directed to your post #3, post #13 sounds much more sensible.

    If Ham takes 4-5p again on Massa then he might just have sealed the WC. Anything can happen in Shanghai of course but he probably wont park in the gravel again. Interlagos can still be very exciting, remember Suzuka 05? It became a great race just becuase it didnt mean anything for the WC.

  15. Jian

    Yeah, I know maths doesn’t work always. And the face of Massa after qualy was saying something was wrong with him in Q3.

    But I still think L Ham and Kimi are lighter than Kova and Massa. Probably not so much as the maths says but still lighter.

    Anyhow, tomorrow we will see (if nothing strange happens)

    Imagine Kimi jumping over Lewis!!!! (one year contract extension of 50MUSD is worth enough!!!) Just kidding…

  16. So the rumour about Renault protesting that Hamilton impeded Piquet during Q2 has come to nothing then?

  17. I believe Hamilton and Massa have the same strategy(no more than 1, max 2 laps), Kovalainer is the ligher between the first 6 by 3-4 laps and Kimi is 2 laps heavier than Massa.
    Ferrari didnt want to come to the scenario they already have, but a very optimistic Massa(see Q1 and Q2) did that mistake.

  18. @Tom: yep nothing

    It turns out that Renault engineers did make an enquiry with the FIA’s Charlie Whiting, but only after mishearing a radio message from Piquet about Hamilton.

    Ultimately, there was no incident to investigate.


  19. In fact, Massa is not overfueled. Last year first pit stop were in lap 27-28.

    The 1st stops were late last year because of all the time spent behind the safety car (which F1 cars use much less fuel behind) and also they use slightly less fuel in the rain, which there was lots of last year. I read somewhere that the safety car & rain in ’07 made a difference of around 7 laps, so in fact your estimate for Hamilton is roughly the fuel that the frontrunners carried last year, your estimate for Massa is much heavier.

  20. I thought Raikkonen was light, given his pace increase relative to Massa between Q1/2 and Q3. So maybe Lewis is slightly light. Or maybe Massa just didn’t get a great lap in. Or maybe Lewis got a humdinger in, which the Japanese director very nicely didn’t show us. Or maybe it’s a bit of everything.

    Even if Massa is fuelled more heavily the field spread of having traffic in front of him will very likely negate that benefit, unless he can clear both Alonso and Kovalainen very quickly, which I’m not sure he will.

    I think one thing’s for sure – this is precisely the type of race Massa has to impress in if he’s to justify winning the WDC. Can’t win ’em all from the pole. He needs a dynamic, risk-taking, racers drive – the sort we don’t really see from him – and not just 60-odd qualifying laps.

  21. Massa needs to pull off another Hungary now,

    I think; He will take Alonso at the start. Since, he is on the cleaner side.

    If Kova messes up his start ( which he has, this season – a lot ); Its game-on between Massa and Hamilton.

    There are just far too many ‘if’s in these statements though.

  22. IDR

    The gap between KR and Massa in your calculation seems too big to me: why risk Massa’s grid position with such a large fuel difference? But there obviously is some fuel load difference, which raises the question of what Ferrari’s strategy is (or was). I’d say they were aiming for 1. RAI, 2. HAM, 3. MAS – with a chance that Massa would have a fantastic last lap/Hamilton a poor one, and Massa could even grab second. With this grid set-up, the Ferrari drivers would then use the same strategy as São Paulo: Raikkonen boxing Lewis in off the grid (or early in the first lap) for Massa to pull into second or first.

    The problem is the cars/drivers have been really close this weekend, meaning it was always going to be high-risk. Add to that the fact it was actually Hamilton who had a storming final lap, and Felipe a relatively bad one, and this meant both Kova and Alonso picked him off too, with Kubica looming close.

    But I agree with MacademiaNut, there are a ton of variables in this grid line-up: a poor start from the either McLaren and it’ll be all back on for Ferrari’s strategy. And Alonso’s going to be interesting – though he’s after another win, so I doubt he’ll just let Massa breeze past.

  23. Sorry for posting this, I asked the same in the Quali live blog, but: Will Hamilton use his joker engine for this race? (Timo Glock has already done so).
    The fact is, if Lewis doesn’t, he will have a used engine at Fuji, a fresh one at Shangai, and a used one again at Interlagos.
    He can’t have fresh ones at China AND Brasil because of a reglamentary clause:

    FIA rule 28.4.f) EXCEPT during the LAST Event of the Championship season, each driver will be permitted to use a replacement engine without incurring a penalty the first time this becomes necessary during the season.

    So should he need a spare engine for Interlagos, the standard 10 place grid penalization would be in effect. I hope the Woking guys are aware of this…

  24. Kimi must be light, because he has not been very good in qualifying. Suddenly he is there in front row! Ferrari wanted him to take pole that Massa can be more loaded. Kimi even said that he is not satisfied to his car in one lap.
    So, I think Kimi comes in first…maybe same lap with Lewis…

  25. Alianora La Canta
    11th October 2008, 16:05

    Hamilton would be well-advised to change the engine. It was for the best that he waited until now because this means that the qualifying mileage will be on the engine he’s discarding. However, qazuhb is correct.

    Massa doesn’t have this “problem”, because he is one of six drivers who have already used their get-out-of-jail-free card.

  26. @ IDR

    Thanks i’ll be reading that!


    Perhaps an article analyzing this year’s grid start performance would be nice? talk a bit about the engine mapping changes and how that works from the word go until chequered flag.
    I’ll suggest it and see if it flies. In my recollection Ferrari has for the most part gained places or at the very least mantained positions, I might be wrong though.

  27. I like Hamilton but I would prefer to wait until the en of the championship to see the winner. Massa is still a threat.

  28. What a lap. As he said after doing away with Kimi in Spa (%%%$% **&*& $£$% “”£$£$ ^%£$ **&** FIA, phew! thats better)…….” Thats what Iam talking about”.

  29. Sorry, IDR, but last year the race had a great number of laps under the safety car. So, this maths doesn´t work…


    “Usually, on a heavy fuel load, the car can be quite tough to drive on the limit, but I managed to pull all the sectors together and drove a pretty good lap…

    Is it him sandbagging?

  30. Becken,

    I’m afraid this time is me against the world!!!!

    You’re right the 20 first laps were under safety.

    Anyhow, it doesn’t nothing to do with the maths. Those estimations are based on Q2 / Q3 time differences on this year qualy.

    And as I said, not taking in consideration eventual drivers performance differences, so, maybe you (and many others!) are right.

    At the end, Hamilton seems to have done an extraordinary final lap and Felipe Massa was not quite happy after qualy.

    But for this case, as I still believe in democracy… I’ll put my head down!!!!

  31. This is his 12th pole not 11th. If he does make it through the first corner ahead of everyone and both Kovalainen and Alonso keep ahead of massa given his(massa) ‘inability’ to overtake then Lewis might jst be champion in china!!

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