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BBC Sport's fuel-adjusted European GP grid

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F1 Mole | 17:57 UK time, Saturday, 22 August 2009

Lewis Hamilton undoubtedly did a splendid job to set pole position for the European Grand Prix - but the fastest man in qualifying was actually Brawn's Rubens Barrichello. And Hamilton was actually slower than team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who qualified behind him.

The cars in the top 10 shoot-out are not allowed to refuel between qualifying and the race so their pace in qualifying is determined by the amount of fuel they are carrying, which in turns defines when they have to make their first pit stop.

So once the weights of the cars are published it is possible to work out who was actually the de facto fastest man.

Rubens Barrichello is the fuel-adjusted fastest man on the Valencia grid

And this time it was Barrichello, as the Brazilian himself implied might well be the case in his remarks after qualifying.

Taking into account fuel weights, the BBC Sport fuel-adjusted grid is as follows:

1 Rubens Barrichello lap 19
2 Heikki Kovalainen +0.216secs (lap 16)
3 Lewis Hamilton +0.249 (lap 15)
4 Jenson Button +0.291 (lap 18)
5 Sebastian Vettel +0.507 (lap 16)
6 Nico Rosberg +0.540 (lap 20)
7 Mark Webber +0.610 (lap 20)
8 Kimi Raikkonen +0.614 (lap 18)
9 Fernando Alonso +0.871 (lap 17)
10 Robert Kubica +1.114 (lap 17)

Barrichello is carrying 9.5kg more fuel than Hamilton, which means he will probably stop four laps later than him in the race. And that is likely to set up a fascinating Grand Prix.

Hamilton and Kovalainen will almost certainly use their Kers power-boost systems to guarantee they stay ahead at the start. But presuming Barrichello can stay with them - and there is no reason why he should not be able to in a quicker car - he has the chance to jump them at the first pit stops.

So despite qualifying third, Barrichello is actually in a strong position to take his first victory of the season - and it underlines that, at least in these hot conditions, the Brawns are back on form here in Valencia.

Kovalainen's position in second on the fuel-adjusted grid confirms what a strong performance he produced on Saturday afternoon, regardless of his slight mistake that ruined a lap that might have put him on pole at the end of the session.

But this is not the first time the Finn has been faster than Hamilton on fuel-adjusted qualifying times this year. His problem - which is making his position at the team vulnerable for 2010 - is that he has struggled to convert that pace into strong race showings.

Fifth place on the grid for Button, and fourth on fuel-corrected times, is not a great result in one way for the world championship leader in that he is a long way off Barrichello's pace.

On the other hand, Button is four grid places ahead of his closest championship rival, Red Bull's Mark Webber, who is 18.5 points behind Button.

Webber's team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who is only 1.5 points further back in third place in the championship, is ahead of Button on the grid.

But Button is only a place behind him, and the Englishman has two advantages - he is in a faster car and he is starting from the cleaner and gripper side of the grid, which might be enough to put him ahead of Vettel into the first corner.

The race, then, looks like being between the Brawns and the McLarens. Last year's inaugural event was a soporific bore.

This year's one, though, looks set to provide enough excitement to keep spectators awake in the stifling heat.

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