Nico Makes It Two In A Row, Vettel Looks Perplexed, And A Home Town Favorite Just Hangs On – Qualifying For The Spanish GP.
Well, well, well, it looks like there is a new kid in town when it comes to one lap pace. Mercedes AMG has now made it three for three courtesy of Nico Rosberg in the last two races and Lewis Hamilton’s pole back in China. I was not the only one surprised by this, the footage of the top 3 qualifiers, Rosberg, Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel shows Vettel in a state that can only be described as perplexed. I was perplexed as well! I was sure Vettel would be on pole and second and third would be between Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. For the most part of the weekend it did not look as if the Mercs would have the pace. Oops, I got that one wrong (not an uncommon occurrence for me) but I’m sure I am not the only one.
As I have said prior to this post despite who wins on race day (this blogger always want the guy from Oviedo, Spain to win on race day) it is refreshing to have a different car on pole. It means that the possibilities increase for a different outcome, and one is never really sure who will take the checkered flag. The last three years have been less than exciting on Saturday afternoon, unless you’re a Red Bull or Vettel fan. Of course we have been down this road before. You only have to look back at the last race, or Lewis’s pole in China, to see that the Mercedes could not carry the single lap pace into a full race distance. We have had three weeks off as fans but there has surely been lots of hard work back at the team factories. Has it been enough to improve the shortfall that the Merc has? This blogger does not think so. It was only lap three at Bahrain when Vettel stormed past Rosberg and “that was that” as the saying goes. In the end Rosberg finished 9th. We are looking for two things in the race tomorrow. One, how long can the two Mercedes stay out in front of the Red Bull and two, if they do surrender the lead, where will they end up?
As frustrating as it is to say (again) I think the smart money is on Vettel. The car looks good, Vettel is driving with a real sense of championship focus and if he does not win, at the very least he looks good to increase his lead in the driver standing. There is however one caveat to this, and that is the tires. If the RB9 starts to chew through them, all bets are off.
This brings us to the Iceman, Kimi Raikkonen. Now as much as I just said the smart money is on Vettel, since I like to always take the road less traveled I would put my money on Raikkonen. He has been very consistent, the car is very fast, (Raikkonen is only a tenth behind Vettel) and we already know how kind the Lotus chassis is on the tires. So I am predicting we will have two, two-time winners come the end of sunday.
Ferrari and Alonso. One can only say – Wha’ Happen? But then again we all know that the Ferrari is not the greatest qualifier, not in the last three years, and not this year as well. There have been large gains in overall pace, which does have a knock down effect so by default the qualifying has been improved, but the F138 is still behind in the one lap department. That being said if you take the Mercs out of the equation and use Vettel as the bench mark, Fernando is only 2.3 tenths behind Vettel and 1.4 tenths behind Raikkonen. This can only been seen as an encouraging for the race because the Ferrari is always faster on full tanks, and like the Lotus is kinder on its rubber. And as we have seen on several occasions in the past three years Fernando is a threat anywhere on the grid up to 12th.
Of our other top drivers, look for Hamilton to do something special, Felipe Massa to have a change of luck, Mark Webber to make it way up to the front, and Roman Grosjean to end with a good result. Will any of these drivers reach the podium, my guess is no. Here is my full prediction not including any crazy on track drama…
Raikkonen = 25 points.
Vettel = 18 points.
Alonso = 15 points
And here are the full results for today qualifying for the spanish gp
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m20.718s
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m20.972s + 0.254s
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m21.054s + 0.336s
4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m21.177s + 0.459s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m21.218s + 0.500s
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m21.219s + 0.501s
7. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m21.308s + 0.590s
8. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m21.570s + 0.852s
9. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m22.069s + 1.351s
10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m22.233s + 1.515s
Q2 cut-off time: 1m22.019s Gap **
11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m22.127s + 1.126s
12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m22.166s + 1.165s
13. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m22.346s + 1.345s
14. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m23.166s + 2.165s
15. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.389s + 1.388s
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.793s + 1.792s
Q1 cut-off time: 1m23.218s Gap *
17. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m23.260s + 1.532s
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m23.318s + 1.590s
19. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m24.661s + 2.933s
20. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m24.713s + 2.985s
21. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m24.996s + 3.268s
22. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m25.070s + 3.342s
One last note of interest, if for some reason the Mercedes boys can pull this off, what we will have for the rest of the season is eight cars and drivers all with an honest chance of winning a Grand Prix, and at least half of them candidates for the the driver’s crown. This would be unprecedented in the current Formula. One can only hope….
jp (and come on Fernando/.…)
This just in: Felipe Massa and Esteban Gutierrez have been both handed a 3 spot grid penalty.