Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished third fastest in Saturday's qualifying session for tomorrow's French Grand Prix, with a time of 1m16.693. However, the penalty he received in Montreal two weeks ago means that he will be relegated 10 positions on the grid to 13th. His team-mate Heikki Kovalainen qualified sixth fastest after setting a time of 1m16.944, was promoted to fifth due to Lewis’s grid penalty, but later received a five-place grid penalty, relegating him to 10th.
Lewis Hamilton: "I have to apologise to the team for making a couple of errors on my final runs in Q3. I felt more confident on the prime tyres but went wide at Turn Seven on the first run because I was pushing to try to get the best out of the car. It was a little bit disappointing and, while my grid penalty doesn’t exactly hang over me, it doesn’t help - but I’ll take it on the chin. Overtaking is going to be tough on Sunday but I’m confident we’re going to be quick. And, as always, I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to score as many points as possible for the team."
Heikki Kovalainen: "The traffic meant I couldn’t put together a clean opening lap in Q1, so we did a second run just to make certain. For Q2, I found a good balance with my car and felt more confident going into the final session. I didn’t feel any problems throughout today’s sessions, but minor things prevented me from being quicker in Q1 and Q2. Owing to the penalty I was given following the mix-up with two other cars, I will start 10th; not ideal, but it’s perfectly possible to score points from there and that’s what I intend to do."
Ron Dennis: “Today’s qualifying session was quite a challenging one for Lewis, since neither of his quick laps was perfect. Had be been able to string together an optimum lap, it’s clear that he would have been capable of being quickest. Having said that, despite knowing that he would be relegated 10 grid places, we decided not to sacrifice a good race strategy in our efforts to be fastest and thereby line up 11th. So, bearing in mind that he’s still 13th despite having carved out what by his own admission was a sub-optimal lap, he clearly has the potential to record a good race result. Heikki, too, is in a pretty good position, despite his penalty. Again, it was one of those things: he and Nakajima tried to stay out of Webber’s way, but in their efforts to do so there was a bit of positional confusion and nowhere left for him to go. The result was that he compromised both his own and Mark’s laps. We have no objection to his penalty, and look forward to an exciting and challenging day tomorrow.”
Norbert Haug: "A difficult qualifying session, and the race will certainly be no easier. Tomorrow we will try to score points and compensate as much as possible for our handicap after Lewis’s 10-place relegation and Heikki’s five-place relegation. Both Heikki’s and Lewis's race speed and strategy should be good."