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Heikki Kovalainen will start from the front of the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
Heikki Kovalainen will start from the front of the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
Heikki Kovalainen will start from the front of the British Grand Prix on Sunday.

Classy Kovalainen takes centre stage

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen seized the first pole position of his Formula One career at the British Grand Prix.

SILVERSTONE // The Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen upstaged the foursome battling it out for the world championship by claiming pole position for today's British Grand Prix - the first of his career. But the McLaren-Mercedes driver will be hoping he can break the jinx affecting previous front-runners at Silverstone. Only Rubens Barrichello, in 2003, and Fernando Alonso, three years later, have triumphed from pole in the last 10 years. Kovalainen said: "It's not going to be easy, but my pace has been good all week and I am confident our strategy will be a strong one as well. The target is to win the grand prix." The Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber starts alongside him, with world champion Kimi Raikkonen third, ahead of home favourite Lewis Hamilton. The championship leader Felipe Massa starts ninth in his Ferrari with nearest championship challenger Robert Kubica a place behind after both suffered problems during the latter stages of qualifying. Kovalainen had looked to have the edge on his teammate Hamilton during the practice sessions, and that was shown in the final moments of one of the best qualifying sessions of the season so far. Raikkonen, who won the race last year, topped the timesheets with less than 60 seconds to go with a time of 1min 21.706secs. But he was usurped in astonishing fashion by Mark Webber, who took two tenths of a second off Raikkonen's time. But dreams of a first ever pole position for Red Bull were shortlived as Kovalainen kept his cool to take top spot with a lap of 1.21.049. With the teams running different fuel loads in preparation for a wet race, it was evident that the front runners were on differing fule strategies in preparation for the anticipated awkward conditions they are likely to face. Webber was thrilled with his performance, and said: "We have been pretty strong most of the weekend, but I didn't know how strong until Qualifying Two, where we were third. "In relation to the rest of the guys we are normally competing against we have a good margin." Ferrari and Raikkonen have surprisingly being off the pace this weekend, but the Finn was in a content mood - arguably due to the fact he is ahead of all his championship rivals. The Finn admitted: "We're not exactly where we want to be, but then we're not sure how much fuel people have, although Heikki has been fast all weekend. "Third is not to be sneezed at. I'm pretty happy with the car, and I feel we should get some points." For Hamilton it was a frustrating session - quick throughout the session he went off at the exit of Priory on his first attempt at pole. His second effort was scrappy - eight tenths off his teammate - and he had to be content with the second row. With just two races left before the Grand Prix moves to Donington under a new deal, Hamilton said: "It would be nice [to win here before it moves]. I am happy with fourth and everything is possible. Heikki was fantastic and deserved to be on pole. "I have no clue why the car's not perfect, but I think I will be strong in the next few races." Nick Heidfeld will line-up fifth on the grid in his BMW-Sauber, ahead of the two Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet, with the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Vettel an excellent eighth fastest. A problem in the pits changing tyres relegated Massa's Ferrari to ninth, while a suspected fault with the rear of his BMW left Kubica in tenth. David Coulthard's will start from 11th, while it was another disappointing day for Honda as Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button as they could do no better than 16th and 17th fastest. akhan@thenational.ae Watch the race live on Al Jazeera +3 from 4pm

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