The European leg of Formula-1's 2010 season kicks off in Spain after a three-week hiatus.
I think it's unfortunate this is the first race of the European stint because we rarely get exciting races here, and I’m afraid I didn’t expect much from qualifying either. Whereas for the last couple of years qualifying has been more exciting than race day, now, with Red Bull’s dominance, Sunday has become the most exciting day of the race weekend, (though I think this is a good thing).
A quick note before we get into Qualifying proper, Petrov and Chandhok will receive five place penalties for new gearboxes. Di Grassi and Glock will take the same place drop for failing to inform the stewards of their gear ratios.
Probably the most pointless twenty minutes in motor sports at the moment, due to the slowness of the new teams.
As the green light signalled the start of the session Kovalainen exited the pits. The Fin gave us our first time, a 1:26:048, four minutes in. However, the Lotus man was quickly pipped by his teammate.
The first "big boy" time came from Massa who set a 1:23:068, but he too was quickly beaten by his teammate. Given a speed boost from his new ‘F duct’ and the overwhelming support of his home fans, Alonso quickly made it up to P1.
Meanwhile, Jenson Button was strong in P2, but struggled with rear unsuitability. This didn’t effect Hamilton as was quick and up to P1.
The positions after 10 minutes were as follows:
Hamilton, Button, Kubica, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Massa, Sutil, Kobayashi, Rosberg, Schumacher, Barrichello, Alguersuari, Buemi, de la Rossa, Liuzzi, Petrov, Trulli, Kovalainen, Glock, Chandhok, Senna, Webber, Vettel
You’ll notice the Red Bulls were dead last…this was because they hadn’t set any times yet. They soon rectified this by getting to P3 (Webber) and P4 (Vettel). Before long the Red Bulls were setting the pace.
With a couple of minutes left Petrov was in danger, but the Russian managed to pull his way to safety. The man to watch was Barrichello, the only Williams driver with upgrades lapped very poorly, and after a quickish time from de la Rossa found himself in the drop-out zone, and minutes later the Brazillian was out!
Q1 Top Three:
Webber, Vettel, Hamilton
Barrichello, Trulli, Kovalainen, Glock, di Grassi, Chandhok, Senna
This time Liuzzi opened proceedings with a 1:22:982. The Red Bulls were both out early in Q2 with hard tyres. This was a real show of confidence as everyone else was on softies tyres.
As usual the Bulls were super fast and Webber picked up where he left off quickly getting P1, about five minutes in.
Alonso was mediocre in P3, but no one could do anything about Vettel and Webber who simply kept swapping places at the front.
Here are the positions at the halfway stage:
Webber, Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Massa, Sutil, de la Rossa, Hulkenberg, Kobayashi, Petrov, Buemi, Alguersuari, Liuzzi, Schumacher, Rosberg
I copied times down before a big team set their first times… again. Nothing much changed after the Mercedes set their first times.
Schumacher looked a lot more confident and got himself up to P3, while Rosberg struggled in traffic and stayed last. On his second run, the German got up to a more respectable P9.
With five minutes left, Webber led Vettel and Schumacher. In the dying moments Vettel stole P1, only to lose it again to Webber while Button took P3. Massa struggled for P9 and Alonso got through with a disappointing P5.
Q2 Top Three:
Webber, Vettel, Button
Sutil, de la Rossa, Hulkenberg, Petrov, Buemi, Alguersuari, Liuzzi
We all knew who the top two would be so the question was which Red Bull driver would be on the pole.
Kubica set the first time of 1:22:038, but he was quickly pipped by Button and Alonso.
The Red Bulls then flew around and locked out the front row. After all but Kobayashi had set times the standings were as follows:
Webber, Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Schumacher, Massa, Alonso, Kubica, Rosberg, Kobayashi.
The Japanese Sauber driver, (who by the way had done an excellent job to get into Q3), took the track with three minutes left. Though he initially got up to P7, he quickly found himself in P10, where he would finish.
I’d like to tell you what followed was exciting, but it wasn’t. Vettel was fast. Webber was faster. The German Red Bull driver crossed the line in pole with a 1:20:101, while Alonso could only manage P3. Webber then crossed the line with a fantastic 1:19:995, which was of course great, but wholly unexciting.
The rest of the pack formed up behind the Red Bulls and Hamilton won the best of the rest competition.
Qualifying has become very dull, but that thankfully hasn’t translated into most of the races. Having said that, I don’t expect much tomorrow. If all get away from the line cleanly, I can’t see many places changing hands in the hot sun with the new rules.
It was great to see such a nice bloke take P1. To be quite honest I wouldn’t mind if Webber wins. I just want him to give us a bit of a show.
Who knows, we still haven’t seen a pole sitter win the race…
1 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:19.995
2 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:20.101
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.829
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:20.937
5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.991
6 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:21.294
7 Robert Kubica Renault 1:21.353
8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:21.408
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:21.585
10 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:21.984
11 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:21.985
12 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:22.026
13 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:22.131
14 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:22.139
15 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:22.191
16 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:22.207
17 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:22.854
18 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:23.125
19 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.674
20 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.748
21 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.475
22 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.556
23 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:26.750
24 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:27.122