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Massa clinches pole, Hamilton fourth on the grid

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2008-11-02

Ferrari's local Felipe Massa clocked the fastest time in the qualifying session while championship favourite Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) took the fourth spot on the grid. Hamilton needs to end the race in the top five to secure the world title.

 

SAO PAULO - Ferrari's Felipe Massa delighted his home fans with pole position for the title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix on Saturday while championship favourite Lewis Hamilton qualified only fourth.

 

Massa, the first driver to take three successive poles at Interlagos, is Hamilton's only title rival but lags the 23-year-old McLaren man by seven points ahead of Sunday's Formula One season-ender.

 

"I think the pressure is on his (Hamilton's) shoulders because I have nothing to lose," said Massa, relaxed and smiling.

 

Hamilton, who need only finish fifth to become the sport's youngest champion even if Massa wins the race, will line up alongside Ferrari's outgoing champion Kimi Raikkonen on the second row.

 

The Briton congratulated Massa for a "great job" but said Sunday would be a different story.

 

"Tomorrow I will be focusing on my own race: It will be a tough afternoon but I'm comfortable with the fuel strategy we chose," he said.

 

"The guys in front are probably on a different strategy. But we're in a good position to finish in the same place as we are today and that's got to be our aim. We don't need to do anything spectacular."

 

 

 

TRULLI SURPRISING

 

Raikkonen won from third place in Brazil last year to overcome a seven-point deficit and beat Hamilton to the championship.

 

"I did more or less what I was supposed to do," said the Finn, whose main task on Sunday will be to keep Hamilton behind him and help Ferrari retain their constructors' title.

 

"I actually prefer to be in third place than second on the grid here."

 

Toyota's Italian Jarno Trulli recovered from a midweek bout of the 'flu to deprive Ferrari of a front-row sweep, taking second place in his team's best qualifying performance since the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix.

 

"It would be amazing to end the season winning the first victory for Toyota but we know races, anything can happen and I will be there tomorrow to fight," said the veteran.

 

The pole position was Massa's sixth of the year and the crowd cheered on the Sao Paulo-born driver in his bid to upset the odds and become Brazil's first champion since the late Ayrton Senna in 1991.

 

Another roar of approval went up from the grandstands when the big screens replayed images of Hamilton's silver McLaren snapping sideways on his first lap in the decisive final session.

 

"I was very comfortable and very quick all around the session," said Massa, who made a slight mistake in the second part of qualifying but took pole with a time half a second quicker than Hamilton.

 

"I think we have a good strategy and we are looking in good shape for tomorrow. The car is just perfect, already from the first lap on Friday.

 

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen qualified fifth with Renault's double world champion Fernando Alonso sixth.

Date created : 2008-11-01

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