x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Magic Massa puts pressure on Hamilton

Ferrari's Felipe Massa claims pole at Interlagos to turn up the pressure on title rival Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa celebrates taking pole position after the qualifying session for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa celebrates taking pole position after the qualifying session for Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix.

Felipe Massa put himself in the perfect position to put pressure on title rival Lewis Hamilton in today's Brazilian Grand Prix as he claimed pole position last night. The Brazilian was on superb form as he took his third successive pole in Sao Paulo with a lap of 1min 11.368secs around the Interlagos track. With Hamilton unable to do better than fourth in a thrilling qualifying session, the season's finale is set up for an exciting finish with both the drivers' and constructors' championship to be decided in the race. Hamilton, who leads Massa by seven points in the championship standings only needs to finish fifth in today's 71-lap race to guarantee his first world championship.

But if Massa fails to win or finish second on the Sao Paulo circuit then Hamilton will be champion regardless of what he does on the track. It had looked as if it was going to be an all Ferrari front row as Kimi Raikkonen moved upto second in the final seconds of the session. But Jarno Trulli in the Toyota put in his best qualifying performance of the season to grab second with his last lap, relegating Raikkonen to third. Hamilton made a mess of his first qualifying lap, going seven tenths slower than Massa, but although he was quicker on his final run, a poor middle sector let him down as he came up almost half-a-second short. His teammate Heikki Kovalainen also disappointed, as having been quickest in the second part of qualifying he had looked set to challenge for pole. But the Finn was unable to find the speed when it mattered and he had to settle for fifth place, just ahead of the Renault of the double world champion Fernando Alonso. Sebastian Vettel was seventh for Toro Rosso, ahead of the BMW-Sauber of Nick Heidfeld. Sebastien Bourdais' Toro Rosso and Timo Glock's Toyota completed the top 10. While it was a good day for Massa, it wasn't such a great day for his compatriots. Nelson Piquet just missed out on reaching the last part of qualifying as he was 11th, with Rubens Barrichello only able to go 15th quickest in his Honda. Robert Kubica's hopes of finishing third in the championship took a dent as he could only qualify 13th. The Pole looked badly out of sorts in his BMW-Sauber and struggled over the bumps. David Coulthard will start the final race of his Formula One career from 14th place in his Red Bull, two places behind his Australian teammate Mark Webber. It was a disappointing end to the season for the Williams team as neither Kazuki Nakajima or Nico Rosberg managed to get past the first part of qualifying. Nakajima will line up 17th, one spot ahead of his German teammate, while the Force Indias of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil fill up the back row. Ferrari's strong form in qualifying also helped their constructors' title bid, with the Italian team needing only eight points to retain their title. Thunder storms are forecast for the rain and possible wet weather is only likely to add to the uncertainty of what should be a thrilling end to a memorable season.

gcaygill@thenational.ae