Brazilian Felipe Massa oozed confidence yesterday after setting himself up to complete a hat-trick of Turkish Grand Prix wins by taking pole position for today’s race at Istanbul Park.
The Ferrari driver clocked a best lap of one minute and 27.617 seconds to outpace surprise nearest rival Heikki Kovalainen in a McLaren, the Finn proving his form after returning following a big accident in Spain two weeks earlier.
The Brazilian, 27, took top spot for the second time this season, and the 11th time in his career, by more than half a second ahead of Kovalainen.
“I am just so happy coming here the third time and for the third time being on pole position. It would be fantastic to repeat that tomorrow,” Massa said. “It is good to be here, but not easy today.”
“I am confident. I don’t know what it is about this track, but it suits me and I am sure we will be competitive here,” he said.
Kovalainen was second ahead of his McLaren team-mate Briton Lewis Hamilton and fourth-fastest man Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second McLaren.
“It has been a rollercoaster of a week for me,” Kovlainen said.
“And this is a great position to be in for me now for this race. I did not know what to expect this weekend, so it is great to be so competitive at this circuit,” he said.
The Brazilian clearly has an affinity with the 5.338km track and he needed to be at his best in the final minutes to outpace Kovalainen, who had gone quickest moments earlier, by nearly two-tenths of a second.
It was a brave effort from Finland’ Kovalainen who was only given the green light to compete on Thursday following his horrifying 240kph accident at the last race in Barcelona two weeks ago.
Hamilton said: “I just wasn’t really happy out there on the softer tyres so I switched over to the harder ones and I guess it was not quite the right choice! It is tough and I had a few scary moments, but third is not a bad place to be here to start the race.”
Raikkonen leads the standings from the young Briton, last year’s runner-up, by nine points going into the fifth round of the 18-race season today.
Poland’s Robert Kubica was fifth for BMW followed by Red Bull’s Australian driver Mark Webber who had been quickest in final practice.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello went out in the second session and will start his record-breaking 257th Grand Prix in 12th place on the grid for Honda Racing.
Barrichello, 35, a nine-time winner with Ferrari during his 16-season career will finally break the mark set by Italy’s Riccardo Patrese when he retired in 1993.
Others who also missed out on the top 10 shoot-out along with Barrichello were team-mate Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg of Williams, Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel and Toyota’s Timo Glock.
The qualifying rules were tweaked following the demise of Super Aguri which reduced the field to 20.
Instead of six drivers dropping out at the end of each of the first two sessions this was cut to five.