"The penalty doesn't help," Lewis Hamilton said pensively yesterday, as the punishment for his Canadian Grand Prix gaffe pushed him down from a solid third on the grid in Magny-Cours to 13th, a long way behind the Ferraris on the front row.
"It doesn't particularly hang over you," he continued. "You come out to win, you feel confident and comfortable, you know the team have done everything to ensure that the car is the best it can be, then you arrive and automatically you get the 10-place penalty. We will just do the best we can, take it on the chin and make sure it does not happen again."
If McLaren saw that one coming, nobody expected the Finnish imposition. That came after Heikki Kovalainen had moved up a place from his sixth qualifying slot, because of Hamilton's penalty, only to get one of his own – five places – after impeding Mark Webber during his slowing-down lap.
In truth, Ferrari did not need either penalty, for their F2008 had a slight but crucial edge over the silver arrows in the last sector of the lap.
After taking the Scuderia's 200th pole position, a relaxed-looking Kimi Raikkonen admitted that it had been a good session, even if it was the first of the weekend in which he had been fastest.
He said: "The car is so different when it has no fuel and when it has more. We worked the whole weekend and it was not always how I wanted it. But the main thing is to be fastest in the end, and that worked out well."
In fact, the Finn was on a faster lap that he only aborted when the team told him nobody could beat his time.
"They told me to come in before the end of it," he said. "I was two tenths quicker, but there was no point to waste fuel."
Felipe Massa, meanwhile, had made most of the running in practice, when Renault were not busy grandstanding by getting Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet to the top of the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning times with low-fuel runs that fooled nobody. The Brazilian was fastest on Friday morning, and in the first and second sessions, but in the end he missed out to his team-mate by 0.41s.
The little Brazilian was philosophical. "I tried to get the best out of the car and lost a bit of time in some corners, trying to push too hard," he confessed. "Of course I had more fuel than I ran in Q1 and Q2, and perhaps that affected the car, but the front row is OK and it is looking very good for the race. I think as a team that we got the best from the car, so I'm looking forward to [the race]."
In 2005 Raikkonen qualified third, dropped 10 grid places after an engine failure, yet still finished second to Alonso. But Hamilton was less interested in that than he was in his own performance in qualifying. "It was disappointing for me," he admitted, "and I apologise to the team because I didn't do a good job at all. I ran wide on the exit to turn seven on each of my runs and lost at least three tenths. I was pushing hard, trying to get the best out of the car, and apart from that I believe I did that everywhere else. I think our car compares quite well with Ferrari's. Obviously it was not quite as good as it was in Canada, but they have a little bit more than us in the middle and last sectors."
Ahead of the British Grand Prix, where he says the support of the fans is uplifting, Hamilton said that he pays no attention to what is written about him in the media. "I can take constructive criticism, but I don't read any of it [media reports]. You hear about it, but what difference should that make to me, because I am doing my job and I am enjoying myself?
"It does not affect my life in any way, shape or form. Sure, the opinion you end up giving people does affect you because at the end of the day I am not a mean guy and I am out there doing the best job that I can. Small mistakes happen. I am sure that everyone makes similar mistakes to those I do, but you're not in the spotlight like me.
"People try and make me something that I'm not, but there is not really a lot I can do about it. The majority of the time, 99.9 per cent of the time, it's only my dad's opinion that matters."
1. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1min 16.449sec
2. Felipe Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:16.490
3. Fernando Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:16.840
4. Jarno Trulli (It) Toyota 1:16.920
5. Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:17.037
6. Mark Webber (Aus) RedBull Renault 1:17.233
7. David Coulthard (GB) RedBull Renault 1:17.426
8. Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:17.596
9. Nelson Piquet (Br) Renault 1:15.770
10. Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:16.944 (demoted five places)
11. Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:15.786
12. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:15.816
13. Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:16.693 (demoted 10 places)
14. Sébastien Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:16.045
15. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan) Williams Toyota 1:16.243
16. Jenson Button (GB) Honda 1:16.306
17. Rubens Barrichello (Br) Honda 1:16.330
18. Giancarlo Fisichella (It) Force India Ferrari 1:16.971
19. Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India Ferrari 1:17.053
20. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams Toyota 1:16.235 (demoted 10 places)