Massa beats Hamilton to France pole

Felipe Massa grabbed his fourth pole position of the season after holding off championship leader Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the French Grand Prix

Massa beats Hamilton to France pole

The Ferrari driver set a best time of 1:15.034 to edge McLaren rival Hamilton by less than a tenth of second. Massa's teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start from third position after missing out yet again on a place in the front row.

The Finn has only started from the top two once this year.

BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, returning to Grand Prix action following his crash in Montreal, showed the accident had no effects on him, the Pole putting on his strongest qualifying performance with fourth.

Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen completed a good day for the French team as they will start from fifth and sixth respectively, the team's best effort this year.

Nick Heidfeld was seventh, ahead of Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Williams driver Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton's teammate Fernando Alonso endured a dismal session and will start from 10th position after being unable to set a time.

Alonso hit trouble very early in the final session, the Spaniard having to return to his garage without managing to complete his opening lap after he suffered a gearbox problem.

Alonso spent some 10 minutes in his car while his team tried to solve the issue, but he eventually got out and did not return to the track.

"This is the worst thing that could happen, because at least starting from outside the top ten you can choose the fuel you load," Alonso told Spanish TV after his problems.

Trulli's teammate Ralf Schumacher completed one of his best qualifying performances of the season thanks to the 11th fastest time.

Honda's fortunes did not improve much despite the use of their upgraded car, both Brazilian Rubens Barrichello and Briton Jenson Button unable to make it into the top ten. Button will start 12th, with Barrichello right behind.

David Coulthard was unable to even set a time after suffering an apparent gearbox problem during his first lap at the start of the second session.

The Red Bull Racing driver, who will start from 16th place, managed to bring his car back to the garage, but the team were unable to solve the problem in time to give him another run.

Teammate Mark Webber also seemed to have problems during the session, the Australian completing just one flying lap to finish in 14th position.

The Red Bull duo were split by Toro Rosso's Scott Speed, who continued with his strong weekend following his promising showing in practice.

Toro Rosso teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi was unable to repeat his impressive performance from Friday, when he set the fifth quickest time in practice, the Italian being eliminated in the first session. He finished ahead of Williams driver Alex Wurz, who continued with his qualifying problems and missed the cut once again.

Wurz, who failed to make it past the first qualifying segment for the third time in a row and for the fifth time this season, finished in front of Super Aguri duo Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson, whose Japanese squad did not have a car in the second session for the first time since Monaco.

Sato, however, has been penalised in the previous race in Indianapolis and the Japanese will drop to the back of the grid.

The bottom two positions of the grid were again for Spyker drivers Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil, the German parking his car on the grass with some problem when the session was already over.

France qualifying breakdown Session 1 Session 2 Session 3
Pos Driver Team Pos Time Lap Pos Time Lap Pos Time Lap
1. Massa Ferrari 3. 1:15.303 3 2. 1:14.822 3 1. 1:15.034 12
2. Hamilton McLaren 1. 1:14.805 3 1. 1:14.795 3 2. 1:15.104 12
3. Raikkonen Ferrari 2. 1:14.872 3 3. 1:14.828 3 3. 1:15.257 13
4. Kubica BMW Sauber 8. 1:15.778 7 4. 1:15.066 3 4. 1:15.493 12
5. Fisichella Renault 12. 1:16.047 7 7. 1:15.227 6 5. 1:15.674 12
6. Kovalainen Renault 5. 1:15.524 7 8. 1:15.272 6 6. 1:15.826 12
7. Heidfeld BMW Sauber 9. 1:15.783 4 6. 1:15.149 7 7. 1:15.900 12
8. Trulli Toyota 15. 1:16.118 5 10. 1:15.379 6 8. 1:15.935 12
9. Rosberg Williams 13. 1:16.092 7 9. 1:15.331 6 9. 1:16.328 12
10. Alonso McLaren 4. 1:15.322 3 5. 1:15.084 3 10. No time 1
11. R.Schumacher Toyota 7. 1:15.760 6 11. 1:15.534 6      
12. Button Honda 14. 1:16.113 6 12. 1:15.584 6      
13. Barrichello Honda 16. 1:16.140 6 13. 1:15.761 6      
14. Webber Red Bull 6. 1:15.746 6 14. 1:15.806 5      
15. Speed Toro Rosso 11. 1:15.980 6 15. 1:16.049 6      
16. Coulthard Red Bull 10. 1:15.915 7 16. No time 2      
17. Liuzzi Toro Rosso 17. 1:16.142 6            
18. Wurz Williams 18. 1:16.241 7            
19. Sato Super Aguri 19. 1:16.244 6            
20. Davidson Super Aguri 20. 1:16.366 5            
21. Albers Spyker 21. 1:17.826 6            
22. Sutil Spyker 22. 1:17.915 5            
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