McLaren announced their revival in style as they locked out the front row of the grid for the European Grand Prix at the street circuit of Valencia. It was Lewis Hamilton on Pole position with teammate Heikki Kovalainen on P2. The Brawn of Rubens Barrichello is on P3 with teammate Jenson Button on P4. Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Robert Kubica complete the top ten. In a slightly less-than-hectic Qualifying session, the true race pace of McLaren was showcased as early as the first session itself as neither the Brawns nor the Red Bulls could challenge them. Lewis was atop the timesheets for most of the first session and also for most of the second. In both sessions, he was pipped by the Brawns – first by Jenson in Q1 and then by Rubens in Q2 but when it mattered, the Brawns just could not better the McLaren’s times.
Q1 started with long time practice driver for Ferrari, Luca Badoer being amongst the first ones to go round the street circuit at Valencia but his time was not fast enough and he steadily dropped down the charts. Most of the drivers posted their times in the high 1 Min 40s bracket and Heikki Kovalainen was the first one to dip into the 1 Min 39s timeframe which was bettered by Kimi Raikkonen and then by Sebastian Vettel and also by Nico Rosberg. Subsequently Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest time but was immediately eclipsed by Rubens Barrichello but Lewis again clawed back to P1 but not for long as Jenson Button went quicker still. The ones to drop out of Q1 were Giancarlo Fisichella, Kazuki Nakajima, Jarno Trulli, Jaime Alguersuari & Luca Badoer. Yep, a Ferrari at the back of the grid!
Q2 started with Kimi Raikkonen – the sole surviving Ferrari – first out on track and followed by the others. He set a lowly 1:38.8 and that was fast, given that this session will see the cars at their fastest. The Brawns quickly climbed to the top of the timesheets and so did the McLarens and as the session wore on, the times kept tumbling and at the last possible instant, Rubens Barrichello put his Brawn on P1 with 1:38.0. The ones to drop out of Q2 were Nick Heidfeld, Adrian Sutil, Timo Glock, Romain Grosjean & Sebastian Buemi.
The remaining ten drivers took to Q3 with earnest and the McLarens continued to be fast with Lewis stonking in a lap time of 1:39.498. Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen were second and third fastest and it was bound to come down to the end of the session…and when the Chequered Flag fell – and the dust settled on the track – it was the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton which was left unchallenged on Pole Position.
With the Valencia circuit deemed to be a slow, boring one by many of thr drivers, it is but essential that one get the best starting place on the grid. And what could be more better than P1 and P2 for the McLarens? The contentious issue here is tyre management…if both Lewis and Heikki can manage to look after their tyres as well as the Brawns, they have a great chance to wrap up the race win. Plus, they have KERS too. Jenson Button, on the other hand, has to ensure that he doesn’t lose ground to any of his title challengers, including his teammate! Dreary or not, we’re in for a fascinating Grand Prix of Europe. Bring.It.On.