Felipe Massa has described taking pole position for this weekend's inaugural European Grand Prix around the all-new, harbour-side Juan Carlos I Marina circuit in Valencia as the perfect tonic to his agony last time out when his engine failed just three laps from victory in Hungary.

The Brazilian has been one of - if not the - men to beat all weekend in the Spanish city, and as qualifying progressed he seemed to have an answer to everything Formula 1 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton had to throw at him.

He ultimately saw off the Briton's final threat in Q3 with a lap time just over two tenths of a second quicker still, to preserve his qualifying supremacy at street circuits in the top flight in 2008 following on from his Monaco pole - and send out a clear message that he firmly intends to close if not overturn the eight-point deficit currently separating him from his McLaren-Mercedes quarry in the drivers' title standings.

"It's great to be on pole position," the 27-year-old enthused, "especially after the great disappointment of Budapest, but I'm well aware the race is tomorrow and so there is still a long way to go. My first run in Q3 was very good, and on the second I made a good improvement in the first sector and that's where pole came from.

"Today, the track was still very slippery, partly because of last night's rain. After this morning's free practice, I thought the harder tyres would be the most competitive in qualifying, but at the start of the session I didn't feel as comfortable anymore and so we went for the softer compound.

"The team did a great job in preparing for this event, and I want to thank them for giving me such a strong car. I hope we can have a good race tomorrow."

Indeed, such was Massa's pace that - not for the first time this season - defending F1 World Champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was quite literally left trailing in the S?o Paulista's wheeltracks. The Finn eventually lined up fourth, almost half a second in arrears and making it now the third grand prix in succession and eighth time in twelve races in 2008 that his has been the second of the two scarlet F2008s on the starting grid.

"Fourth place is not what I was looking for," the phlegmatic 28-year-old mused afterwards, "but it's definitely not the end of the world. I could have been higher up the grid, but on my last run in Q3 I locked the wheels at a few points and lost valuable time.

"It was nothing dramatic, but at this circuit a small error is very costly. I still think I can be in the fight for the win, especially if I manage to get a good start. We have a good car, which should be especially competitive in the race."

Having turned the tables on chief championship rivals McLaren at the Hungaroring prior to Massa's late-race demise, Ferrari well know that reliability will be key in Valencia - particularly in an event that could throw up a number of unknowns.

"We are very happy with Felipe's first place," affirmed the Scuderia's team principal Stefano Domenicali, "and he really drove very well. It was a shame for Kimi, who could have been a bit higher up the order, even though fourth place cannot be considered a bad result.

"All things considered, a good day for the team, even though we are well aware that it's the race that counts. Tomorrow we can expect a sweaty afternoon - and not just because of the heat! We will have to pay great attention in managing all the possible scenarios that could occur.

"The decisive factors will be the usual ones - reliability first and foremost, strategy, performance and the work of the team and drivers. On top of that, there will be the unknowns that go with a track being raced on for the first time. For our part, we will do our utmost to try and bring home the best possible result in terms of the championship."

"A good qualifying session," added Maranello's technical director Luca Baldisserri, "very close and made even more uncertain because of the weather. A first and a fourth place is a good outcome, even if it could have been better. Felipe did two great laps in Q3, while Kimi missed out by a whisker on being able to start from the clean side of the track. In fact, the start will be one of the decisive moments of the race.

"Tomorrow it will be important to try and pick up as many points as possible with both drivers. We have a car that is competitive over a long run, and we will try and exploit that as well as possible. We must pay careful attention to managing all the possible scenarios that arise; as on all street circuits, the risk of a safety car period is always hanging over the race."


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