The battle for pole position for the European Grand Prix saw Hungarian Grand Prix winner and defending champion Lewis Hamilton and McLaren Mercedes team-mate Heikki Kovalainen battling for supremacy until the latter made a small mistake at the penultimate turn, gifting Hamilton his
first pole position of the season with a best lap of 1:39.498s around the 5.419km street circuit.
Kovalainen looked to be set to snatch the provisional pole away as the chequered flag flew in the older specification MP4-24, but took a little too much kerbing on the fast turn 24 forcing the Finn too deep into the final turn. The lap was lost and Hamilton was therefore able to back off and head back to the pits with his 15th career pole.
While McLaren celebrate their one-two result, Rubens Barrichello
led the way for Brawn Mercedes and starts third just two-hundredths of a second behind Kovalainen and six-hundredths off the pole.
Red Bull Renault has not shown winning pace all weekend but at least in qualifying Sebastian Vettel was able to qualify fifth following his major engine failure in the morning practice session. Significantly the German starts ahead of championship leader Jenson Button
who will be disappointed with his third row start at a circuit where the BGP 001 package seems to be working well. Kimi Raikkonen
carried the Ferrari team in Felipe Massa’s absence and starts from sixth position. His advantage heading into the 57 lap Grand Prix is that along with Hamilton and Kovalainen, he enjoys the KERS advantage off the line as he chases his third podium position of the season.
Williams showed well in practice but qualifying was a disappointment however with Nico Rosberg starting seventh and team-mate Kazuki Nakajima running into mechanical issues. Local fan favourite Fernando Alonso
was unable to replicate his Hungarian qualifying form and starts eighth in the leading Renault.
Mark Webber, second in the championship behind Button and ahead of team-mate Vettel, struggled to ninth on the grid in the second Red Bull ahead of Robert Kubica who rounds out the top ten in the leading BMW Sauber. Nick Heidfeld
starts 11th in the second F1.
09 ahead of Adrian Sutil who did a solid job in the updated Force India Mercedes after setting the pace in the morning practice session. Toyota meanwhile traditionally struggle on street circuits and Valencia is proving no exception as Timo Glock leads the way for the team from 13th position on the grid.
Romain Grosjean was a tenth shy of new Renault team-mate until the double world champion pulled a time out of the bag and moved into the top ten on his very final lap of second qualifying. Grosjean was unable to replicate the lap and starts his first Grand Prix 14th ahead of Sebastien Buemi in the leading Toro Rosso. Giancarlo Fisichella
qualified 16th in the second Force India ahead of Kazuki Nakajima who had been running well with Williams this weekend and right on the pace of team-mate Rosberg. However a mechanical problem forced the Japanese racer to pull the FW31 off the circuit following his second run. Jarno Trulli
, reportedly not being retained by the Toyota team next season, was off the pace and lines up a disappointing 18th ahead of Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari as he prepares for his second Grand Prix start.
As expected, Luca Badoer was slowest by a significant margin on his Formula One return with the Ferrari team. The Italian veteran has looked out of his depth all weekend and it is therefore of no surprise to see him 1.5 slower than any other driver in the field. He and the Italian team claim that this event is effectively a practice session, but it hard to see him finding whole seconds to run anything but last in the coming races.
We may not yet know the fuel levels of the top ten runners, but the order is all set ahead of the round 11 of the championship and its advantage Hamilton and McLaren as they chase their second straight Grand Prix success.