Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was the toast of Interlagos on Saturday afternoon after taking his second successive pole position for his home Grand Prix. It was his sixth of the season.
In a gripping shoot-out at the end of Q3, the Brazilian’s lap of 1m 11.931s just withstood an onslaught from championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who admitted that he lost a tiny bit of pace at the end of the lap rather than risk what he had already gained over the rest of it.
1m 12.082s was sufficient to push his McLaren ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who failed to improve on his 1m 12.322s best. The Finn will start third, ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who cut down to 1m 12.356s right at the end. It remains to be seen whether the respective gaps reflect the individual fuel loads.
Behind them, Mark Webber was a surprise fifth on 1m 12.928s for Red Bull, his best position of the year, ahead of the BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica (1m 13.081s and 1m 13.129s).
Jarno Trulli was eighth in his Toyota on 1m 13.195s, with David Coulthard making it two Red Bulls in the top 10 with ninth place on 1m 13.272s, and Williams’ Nico Rosberg taking the second slot on the fifth row with 1m 13.477s.
There was some controversy afterwards, however, when Ferrari accused Hamilton of getting in Raikkonen’s way when he left the pits for the final time. Hamilton strongly denies any wrongdoing and said that he moved over as soon as he realized how close the Finn was to him.
Rubens Barrichello will start 11th after pushing his Honda round his home track in 1m 12.932s and just missing the cut into Q3. Giancarlo Fisichella also missed out for Renault, with 1m 12.968s. Sebastian Vettel was the faster Toro Rosso qualifier in 13th on 1m 13.058s as Tonio Liuzzi had to rely on his first run of 1m 13.251s after spoiling the first sector of his second. He was 14th. Ralf Schumacher’s efforts for Toyota yielded 1m 13.315s for 15th, and Jenson Button was the final Q2 runner in the second Honda on 1m 13.469s.
Heikki Kovalainen was a surprise faller in Q1, the Renault driver failing by a hair to get through. Button was the 16th man, on 1m 14.054s, the Finn the 17th on 1m 14.078s. Takuma Sato was likewise unlucky at Super Aguri, lapping his SA07 in 1m 14.098s.
Kazuki Nakajima’s first qualifying effort in a Williams left him 19th in the line-up with 1m 14.417s, which edged out Anthony Davidson’s 1m 14.596s in the second Super Aguri.
At the back, Adrian Sutil’s Spyker came to a halt in the third sector after he’d posted 1m 15.217s, but that still left him just ahead of team mate Sakon Yamamoto, with 1m 15.487s.