Brit GP: surprises

None of this was expected: Heikki Kovalainen on pole for the first time; Mark Webber back on the front row for the first time in four years; Felipe Massa delayed in the pits when the Ferrari mechanics had trouble changing a rear wheel.

Robert Kubica taking 10th, one place behind Massa, after abandoning qualifying due to an unspecified problem with the rear of the BMW. Lewis Hamilton making a mistake, running wide and doing no better than fourth, a massive eight-tenths of a second behind Kovalainen, who was not running with significantly less fuel.

Of all these, perhaps the relative performance of the McLarens was the least surprising. Kovalainen, who has threatened so much for so long only to be denied by back luck, had looked on the case for the moment practice
began on Friday. Hamilton appeared to be working hard and nowhere near as smooth and precise as the Finn.

That translated into a serious case of overdriving on his penultimate lap as the Brit ran wide at Priory, a slow and innocuous corner (by Silverstone standards) that tempts the driver to carry more speed into it than is wise. Hamilton ran wide at the exit, bounced along the gravel and rooted his chances for a fast final lap.

A radio message from the team as he started that final lap confirmed the extent of the mistake. ‘You’re fastest in the first two sectors, Lewis (which was perfectly true) but don’t overdrive in the last.’ Strong words from a team that likes to project an image of perfection. Even more surprising – but commendable – that they allowed those words to become public (teams have the option to operate a ‘privacy’ button when transmitting).

Hamilton did his best to put a positive spin on his afternoon’s work. While admitting that he got it wrong, Hamilton said that he had enjoyed qualifying and fourth was perfectly okay. Eight tenths slower than Kovalainen? Yeah, right.

Rain for the race could turn the whole thing on its head and set the scene for a Lewis virtuoso performance. But, if it remains dry and Heikki’s luck holds for once, stand by to hear the Finnish national anthem for someone other than Kimi Raikkonen.

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