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Kovalainen the pole star at Silverstone

Heikki Kovalainen grabbed his maiden F1 pole position with a near-flawless qualifying display at the British GP after lapping more than half a second quicker than his rivals.
Agencies | By HT Correspondent, Silverstone
UPDATED ON JUL 06, 2008 12:57 AM IST

A delighted Heikki Kovalainen grabbed his maiden Formula One pole position on Saturday with a near-flawless qualifying display at the British Grand Prix after lapping more than half a second quicker than his rivals.

The 26-year-old Finn roared around the former World War Two airfield in one minute 21.049 seconds, with Australian Mark Webber second fastest in 1:21.554 in gusty and changeable conditions.

“Well done, you're on pole by a mile,” he was told over the radio after depriving Red Bull's Webber of what would have been his and his team's first pole with the last lap of the session.

Ferrari's world champion Kimi Raikkonen, Kovalainen's compatriot, qualified third but ahead of his title rivals.

Britain's Lewis Hamilton was unable to match his 2007 Silverstone pole with fourth place for McLaren after running wide into the gravel on his first flying lap and being told not to overdrive by his race engineer.

Championship leader Felipe Massa was only ninth for Ferrari, the Brazilian's worst showing of the season, with his closest rival Robert Kubica 10th for BMW-Sauber after being sidelined by handling problems.

Massa has 48 points after eight races to Kubica's 46 and Raikkonen's 43 with Hamilton on 38.

"I've been spending time around this Silverstone area for many years of my life, and I know a lot of families and friends around here, so it's great to make the first pole here," said Kovalainen, whose previous best in qualifying was second place in Turkey in May.

"There is a still a long way to go...tomorrow is going to be tough and a hard race with the guys around us but I think we have a good opportunity."

Force India at the back

Force India's Italian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella was the first man to be eliminated and will start on the back row of the grid alongside his German teammate Adrian Sutil.

F1 teams fear burnout

Silverstone: Formula One team bosses expressed concern on Saturday about the risk of burnout to mechanics when the calendar expands to 19 races next year without an August break.

“I think the absence of the August break in the calendar next year is very tough. It really is tough on the mechanics,” said McLaren executive Martin Whitmarsh at the British Grand Prix.

"It worries me how hard it is going to be on the teams but I think that's a management challenge; how we're going to deal with that and make sure we don't burn people out during the course of the season," he added.

The 2009 provisional calendar, issued last week, has the Turkish Grand Prix on Aug. 9 followed by the European Grand Prix in Valencia on Aug. 23.

This year, with 18 races, there is a gap between Hungary on Aug. 3 and Valencia on Aug. 24.

Abu Dhabi will make its debut next year as the closing event in November after four other long-haul races in succession in Singapore, Japan, China and Brazil. All of the 10 teams are based in Europe, with the majority in Britain.

"The August break was introduced as a means of genuinely giving everyone a rest in the middle of tough seasons," said Honda team principal Ross Brawn.

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