Well, what does F1 need to make it more interesting? Slicks? Nope. Less aerodynamic additions? Nope. Re-fuelling ban? Nope. The answer is simple...good old fashioned rain!
That was one of the most exciting qualifying sessions I have seen for a long time and it was basically all down to the wet stuff. My suggestion for a 2011 rule change would be sprinklers at the side of the track, turned on at random intervals. I think we need some jumps through rings of fire and more explosions too...but perhaps that is a little much?
Anyway, on with the qually!
Ten minutes before the start of the session, the heavens opened and all the teams rushed to their computers to check their forecasts. The fancy rich teams predicted very specific time schedules and planned accordingly. The newer, more low tech teams simply stuck their heads out of the garages and promptly put their cars out for early runs.
This meant that Kobayashi ended up starting the session followed by almost everyone except for the big boys (McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes). Red Bull were a little more cautious than their rivals and opted for a banker lap or two.
Four minutes in we got our first spin from Petrov at turn two. This was quickly followed by the session’s first time from Buemi (1:48:945).
About six minutes in, and it is probably better for me to tell you that cars were spinning (rather than explain each individual incident!). Still no signs of the ‘big guns’ either.
A couple of minutes later, Schumacher took to the track followed by both McLarens and Ferraris. They joined the track to yellow flags and heavier rain. Had these big boys left it too late?
Struggling to get up to speed, the knock out zone included Schumacher, Rosberg, and Hamilton! In fact, di Grassi was the only new team driver in the knock out zone at this stage and he was only there because his car was being worked on.
With eight minutes left, Kubica led from de la Rossa and Vettel. Button had been lapping pretty well and looked safe when the camera suddenly cut to the World Champion going backwards into the gravel!
He was quickly joined by Petrov. However, whilst the Renault man had gathered enough speed to get back on the track, Button was well and truly beached!
As the rain fell ever more heavily, the big teams darted into the pits for full wets, but it was surely too late. With just five minutes left, the positions were as follows:
Kubica, de la Rosa, Vettel, Petrov, Kobayashi, Alguersuari, Buemi, Sutil, Hulkenberg, Liuzi, Barrichello, Webber, Button, Schumacher, Glock, Rosberg, Kovalainen, ...KNOCK OUT ZONE...Truli, Massa, Alonso, Chandhok, Senna, Hamilton, di Grassi.
With just two minutes left, Alonso spun, wrecking his session and Lewis was no faster.
Alonso did an amazing job to claw back a decent looking lap but could only manage P19! Hamilton will be the ‘Ham’ in a Ferrari sandwich. Button will no doubt be happy to have beaten his teammate for the second week running, but as he couldn’t be put back on the track, he would not be taking part in Q2.
Top 3:Kubica, De la Rossa, Vettel
Out:Trulli, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Chandhok, Senna, di Grassi.
Petrov lead practically everyone out this time. Rain was expected again and nobody wanted to be embarrassed like Ferrari and McLaren in Q1!
Petrov set the first time of 1:53:730, but was quickly piped by the Force Indias. Most drivers were on the full wets but Schumacher had opted for the inters.
Schumacher set the early pace on the favourable tyres, but the positions changed so many times in the following few minutes that it is easier for me to tell you it was mental!
I can tell you that both Renault and Williams drivers were very fast, but as I say conditions and positions were changing by the second.
With around four minutes left, everything had changed again. From looking fast early on, both Petrov and Schumacher were now in trouble and the leader was Vettel.
It looked pretty dodgy for Schumacher right at the end, but he made it through in P10.
Top 3:Vettel, Kubica,Sutil
Out:Petrov, de la Rossa, Buemi, Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Glock, Button
Sutil looked to be leading the pack out for the final session, but he was overtaken as the lights went green by Kubica who, rather than queuing behind the Force India, lined up next to him in the pit lane.
Perfectly legal, and pretty amusing. The rain was really falling by now and just three minutes in, the session was red flagged.
After a wait of around 15 minutes, the session was re-started. It was here that we got a little F1 comedy. The Force Indias quickly took to the pits to get a clear track in front of them. Rather than line up one in front of the other, Liuzi and Sutil choose to block the rest of the pack off and start side by side!
A nice little bit of humour there before the real fun began again!
All cars bar Webber took to the track on the full wets. The Australian was gambling on the inters but if the risk paid off, he would be in an awesome position.
Fast runners included Vettel, Kubica, Barrichello and Hulkenburg, but all eyes were on Webber.
After their first times the positions were:Vettel, Kubica, Hulkenburg, Barrichello, Schumacher, Vettel, Liuzi, Kobayashi, Webber, Rosberg.
Webber was speeding though and his gamble had clearly paid off! He passed the line in P1, followed by Rosberg (P2), then Vettel (P3). It was pretty exciting stuff, but no one could touch the Australian on a mission.
So, a pretty great qualifying session and we’ll get to see if a reverse grid rule change would make the sport more exciting tomorrow. I genuinely can’t wait for those lights to go out on Sunday!
1 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:49.327
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:50.673
3 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:50.789
4 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:50.914
5 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:51.001
6 Robert Kubica Renault 1:51.051
7 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:51.511
8 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:51.717
9 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:51.767
10 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:52.254
11 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:48.760
12 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:48.771
13 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:49.207
14 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:49.464
15 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:52.270
16 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:52.520
17 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:52.211 (Q1 only time)
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:52.884
19 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:53.044
20 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:53.050
21 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:53.283
22 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:56.299
23 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:57.269
24 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:59.977