Well, I’ll say it then…..I was wrong….
After very quiet and frankly worrying stages in practice, Red Bull have gone and put a car on pole. Paddock talk does suggest, though, that the Red Bull will not nurse its tyres as well as the Ferraris, so it's not going to be easy for Vettel tomorrow.
Before going into my analysis, I would just like to say that I have been appalled by the coverage thus far this season. Armed only with my TV and a notepad, I unfortunately had to rely on the commentators for updates on positions and times.
For the Friday sessions, I can survive without the left-hand position graphics, but on a Saturday it is ridiculous. I can’t tell you how angry I am!
If this is making F1 more informative for fans, then I am depressed! Sort it out! I don’t care if extra graphics take away from your precious sponsor coverage…who the bloody hell is in what position!!!
Anyway, I have cooled down now and am ready to continue…..
Di Grassi led the pack out around three minutes into the session. He set the first time of 2:02:131. Then came the top runners who actually had very little to worry about in this first 20 minutes.
With the bottom 6 places determined by the far slower new teams, the only worry was placed on the one remaining position to occupy the dreaded knockout zone.
Unsurprisingly the top runners (McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull) all performed comfortably.
At the halfway point the positions were as follows:
Alonso, Rosberg, Hamilton, Button, Kubica, Liuzi, Hulkenberg, Buemi.
Although many other drivers soon added their names to this list (of course I am unable to tell you where!). What I can tell you is that Red Bull were doing a very good job at proving me extremely wrong by showing us some speed that they deliberately hid from me on Friday to make me look silly!
Some great news came with Q1 as I discovered that the rules had actually been changed last year in regards to taking part in qualifying. I had previously thought that as Chandhok hadn’t participated in any practice time, he would be excluded from the rest of the weekend.
However, after the ridiculous situation last year in which Kobayashi had to jump straight into a race at Suzuka, the rules have been changed so that as long as you take part in some way in qualifying…you can race.
Speaking of Kobayashi, he was struggling and looked as if he would be the big scalp to leave in Q1. However, the exciting Japanese talent pulled out a time at the end of the session to survive.
Q1 was a forgone conclusion, really.
Alonso, Vettel, Sutil
Alguersuari, Glock, Trulli, Kovalainen, di Grassi, Senna, Chandhok
Vettel led Buemi out for this one. Q2 was another Red Bull speed fest with Vettel setting great pace early on. Alonso was fast too, but he couldn’t catch those Red Bulls.
The big story of Q2 was the slowness of McLaren. Hamilton was the faster of the two but for a worryingly long time, Button occupied the P11 knockout position!
Once all drivers had set times, the results were as follows:
Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Sutil, Schumacher, Barrichello, Button, Liuzi, Hulkenberg, Petrov, Buemi, de la Rossa, Kobayashi
The final five minutes were going to be mad as almost every driver returned to the track to try and survive. There was very little space on track and I was getting increasingly worried for Button.
Vettel stayed in front and comfortably glided through followed by the Ferraris, but what about the McLarens? Both were far slower than expected and the lads in the garage were shaking their heads.
Button did make it through at the expense of his 2009 team mate but it was not exactly encouraging for the World Champion to limp past the line in P10.
Vettel, Alonso, Webber
Barrichello, Liuzi, Hulkenberg, de la Rossa, Buemi, Kobayashi, Petrov
Ferrari and McLaren were the only two teams to venture out early on, which meant that the other drivers were probably going to risk one fast lap.
Initially the Ferraris (led by Alonso) were the top runners. McLaren simply couldn’t keep up and I thought my title would be ‘Alonso storms to pole.’
However, those Red Bulls (particularly Vettel) soon sped out and took control of the session. With just two minutes left, Vettel set the pole time of 1:54.101.
Although the commentators were screaming and wishing for a closer fight, the Ferraris just couldn’t deliver. Massa pipped his team mate right at the end and further down the grid Rosberg beat Schumacher, and Hamilton won first blood in the McLaren war.
I think this first Qualifying of 2010 has been interesting. I think the blandness of the circuit perhaps made the whole thing seem duller than it actually was. I would conclude that by far Vettel has Webber where he wants him.
At Mercedes I am pleased to report that Rosberg is clearly faster. Ferrari, well that is a confusing one. Alonso has been faster throughout practice and in most of qualifying. I think he is still the faster of the two drivers, but that certainly doesn’t take anything away from Massa’s great run.
In the final ‘big rival face off,’ Hamilton was the winner at McLaren. Of course as a Button fan I am going to defend the World Champion by saying that he has been much closer in practice. It does worry me, though, that he simply can’t perform in qualifying.
As for tomorrow? I honestly don’t know. My money is still on a red winner (probably Alonso). I think it could be a very exciting race, but it could just as likely be one of the dullest affairs we have seen for a long time. Will these new rule changes make a difference?
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:54.101
2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:54.242
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:54.608
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:55.217
5 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:55.241
6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:55.284
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Benz GP Ltd 1:55.524
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:55.672
9 Robert Kubica Renault 1:55.885
10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:56.309
11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:55.330
12 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:55.653
13 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:55.857
14 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:56.237
15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:56.265
16 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:56.270
17 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:56.619
18 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:57.071
19 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:59.728
20 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:59.852
21 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 2:00.313
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 2:00.587
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 2:03.240 6
24 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 2:04.904