It was a fantastic qualifying session where the pole sitter changed 3 times. In the end it was a last gasp effort from Sebastien Vettel that clinched pole position.
The post quali car weights have been published.
1. Sebastian Vettel RBR Renault 649.5
2. Jenson Button Brawn Mercedes 655.5
3. Rubens Barrichello Brawn Mercedes 652.5
4. Mark Webber RBR Renault 656.0
5. Jarno Trulli Toyota 652.0
6. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 658.0
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 654.0
8. Fernando Alonso Renault 644.5
9. Nico Rosberg Williams Toyota 660.0
10. Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 664.0
11. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 681.5*
12. Kazuki Nakajima Williams Toyota 680.4*
13. Timo Glock Toyota 689.0*
14. Heikki Kovalainen McLaren Mercedes 665.0*
15. Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes 668.5*
16. Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 696.5*
17. Nelson Piquet Renault 689.6*
18. Sebastien Buemi STR Ferrari 686.5*
19. Giancarlo Fisichella Force India Mercedes 688.5*
20. Sebastien Bourdais STR Ferrari 701.0*
Sebastien Vettel will be pitting first on around lap 15/16. Rubens Barrichello is the lightest of the Brawn drivers and he will be in a lap later on lap 16/17.
Jenson Button is going 2 laps longer than Sebastien Vettel and will be in on lap 17/18. Mark Webber should also be pitting at around this time.
Furthur back Jarno Trulli will be paying his first visit to the pits around lap 16/17.
Ferrari isn’t heavier as might have been expected with their grid position. Felipe Massa will be on lap 16/17 and Raikkonen a couple of laps later on lap 18/19.
Sebastien Bourdais is the heaviest of all the runners with a weight of 701.0kg. This should take him to lap 35/36.
Summary of predicted pit stop patterns at the front
Vettel will pit first
Trulli, Barrichello, Massa - + 1 lap
Webber, Button - + 2 laps
Kimi Raikkonen + 3 laps
My predictions for the race tomorrow
The race looks like it will be a straight titanic duel between the Brawn GP and Red Bull drivers. Any of the top 4 drivers could potentially win the race. This is perhaps the first time we will see a straight fight between the two teams. In Bahrain and Spain it was actually quite close between them, but Vettel got stuck behind KERs cars.
There won’t be much difference between them. The Red Bull is mighty in the fast corners of which there are plenty in Istanbul. However the Brawn GP still looks after it’s tyres better. This is very important here particularly in turn 8, which puts plenty of load onto the tyres.
Overall over the long runs I would still back Brawn but not by much.
Brawn also has the tactical advantage with both drivers doing longer than Vettel. If Vettel is to win tomorrow he has to ensure he gets to turn 1 first, and push really hard to open up a gap.
If the race is tight as we expect it to be then factors like pit stop times and fitness will come into play. In the heat predicted, and the physical nature of the circuit the drivers will be pushed to the limit. By the end of the race the drivers will really be suffering, and that could affect laptimes. Button is one of the fittest drivers in the pit lane so that is likely to benefit him.
Could reliability also be an issue, particularly with the Brawns? In Bahrain the heat was a big headache, and if they are pushing hard in combat with the Red Bulls it could be an issue.
Also how will someone of Vettel’s inexperience cope in a close and intense battle for the lead? That will be a new experience for him. Both his race wins so far have been dominant wet weather performances.
Ferrari doesn’t look like they have the pace to challenge. Much was expected particularly from Massa. However they qualified 0.5 seconds off the pace with a similar race fuel to the Brawns and Red Bull. They are perhaps an outside bet for the podium but nothing more than that.
For the final points paying positions it will be a close battle between he likes of Glock, the BMW and William drivers, and maybe the Mclaren of Kovalainen too.
In conclusion it promises to be a very tight and fascinating race between the Brawns and Red Bulls. They will be in close company throughout. It will be small factors that decide the outcome. However tactically and race pace wise Brawn are ahead in my opinion, so I think they will end up edging the race, just as they over Ferrari in Monte-Carlo.
As for my race winner prediction I am going to stick my neck out and go for Rubens Barrichello. He starts on the clean side of the grid so I feel he could get Button into turn 1, and skip Vettel in during the pit stop phase.
Then he will hang onto victory. He is due a race win and I just have this gut feeling race day in Istanbul could be that day. His wise head and experience could be critical in this race, and he has been running well in practise.
My top 8 prediction
1. Rubens Barrichello
2. Jenson Button
3. Sebastien Vettel
4. Felipe Massa
5. Mark Webber
6. Kimi Raikkonen
7. Jarno Trulli
8. Heikki Kovalainen