F1: Hunger pangs

Felipe Massa said he felt it was vital he made his mark on this year's F1 championship after claiming a brilliant pole position for today's race at Sepang.

Felipe Massa said he felt it was vital he made his mark on this year's F1 championship after claiming a brilliant pole position for today's race at Sepang.

The Brazilian outgunned rivals Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the final seconds of qualifying.

A gearbox problem meant the 25-year-old Ferrari driver started the opening race in Melbourne at the back of the field, but he went on to produce a brilliant drive to eventually finish sixth and claim three unexpected championship points.

But he was forced to watch team-mate Raikkonen coast to victory three weeks ago and was ultimately left to lament his mechanical misfortune.

"In Australia I think I could have been fighting for pole," Massa said.

"Kimi did a great job there but so did I.

"But to get pole here, at the start of the championship, is important so I can score as many points as possible for the fight at the end of the season."

That fight is expected by many to be between the two Ferrari drivers, though undoubtedly the McLarens of Alonso and rookie Lewis Hamilton will have a say in the final outcome of this year's championship.

"You know Kimi wants to be in front of me and I want to be in front of him but I think we need to use our brains and not create any problems for the team. That is the most important thing," said Massa.

Defending champion Alonso lines up alongside Massa on the front row of the grid, with Raikkonen in third and Hamilton starting fourth.

Meanwhile, Jenson Button said he intends to enjoy today's race despite ongoing technical problems surrounding his Honda.

The British star had predicted a tough weekend and, although hopes were briefly raised after a reasonably competitive time of 1:35:913 in the first qualifying session, a slower second run meant he will start the 56-lap race from a lowly 15th position.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer