Spanish Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Hola! Buenos dias amigos, bienvenidos a España. The first stop of the European leg of the championship kicks off at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The 4.655km, high downforce circuit, is made up of a high speed first and second sector, before the tight and twisty third sector. The tyre allocation for the weekend is the medium and hard compound tyre, with teams aiming for a two-stopper. Turn 1 allows for overtaking under braking before flicking the car into turns 2 and 3. The high speed turn 3 puts a lot of stress under the front left tyres, but, does allow for overtaking (if you dare). Turn 5 has caught a few out over the weekend with front lock ups as the track falls away. Traction is all important here as drivers snake their way through turns 7, 8, and 9. Opening out onto the back straight its full throttle, utilising DRS into another overtaking attempt at turn 10. Best to avoid the kerbs in the final sector to keep traction, and allow for some late braking through the chicane at turns 14 and 15. Through to the final corner, a good racing line through turn 16 can give you the edge down the long pit straight and another DRS zone.

Traditionally a hot and dry weekend, qualifying got underway in ideal conditions with Nico Rosberg managing to steal pole position for the first time this season. Hamilton was left to challenge his team mate, though will settle to start P2. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was the best of the rest, after qualifying just behind the Mercedes in P3 with 1:25.458.

It was a solid effort by Lotus this afternoon, though for the first time this season the E23s didn’t make an appearance in Q3. The team worked from the morning to find a better balance in the car and ran a different strategy in qualifying, meaning the Maldonado and Grosjean have an extra set of fresh tyres for the race. Good one. Starting on the hard compound, Grosjean and Maldonado ran for four laps before swapping to the softer medium tyre. In Q1, Maldonado shot himself up and out of the drop zone seeing him move through to the second session, followed shortly by Grosjean. Split by a tenth of a second, Grosjean’s best effort was 1:27.375 for P11, ahead of Maldonado’s 1:27.450 in P12.

McLaren have brought a number of upgrades to Spain, with the results of their efforts paying off in practice and in qualifying. Alonso on his first run in Q1 on the medium tyres set a time good enough for P5, ahead of Button in P6, seeing both the MP4-30s through to Q2. With a few minor tweaks to the front wing, Alonso and Button ventured out into Q2 for the first time this season. Button found his car pulling left under braking, costing the Briton lap time. Unable to carry the momentum through to Q3, the two McLaren’s will start P13 and P14 with Alonso in front by a tenth of a second.

Manor F1 Team line up the back of the grid with Stevens setting 1:31.200 after three laps on the medium compound to start P19. In front of his home crowd, Merhi set 1:32.038 after four laps on the medium compound for P20.

Malaysian Grand Prix: The Return of Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel broke the Mercedes strong hold by taking the chequered flag at the Malaysian Grand Prix. A superior tyre strategy and management for Vettel left Mercedes chasing the prancing horse as Hamilton and Rosberg came home second third.

With nineteen cars lining up on the grid in hot and humid conditions, Hamilton kept the lead into turn 1, while Vettel was able to hang on to second place and keep Rosberg in his mirrors. Further back in the pack there was contact between Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado and Williams Valtteri Bottas, resulting in a puncture for Maldonado. Max Verstappen lost a few places off the line, while by the time the grid had reached the hairpin Felipe Nasr caught up to Kimi Raikkonen. Nasr got his C34 a little too close for comfort to Kimi however, clipping the SF15-T’s left rear. At the end of lap 2, both Maldonado and Raikkonen limped back into the pit, with Raikkonen’s rear completely missing. Keeping things interesting and reshuffling team strategies, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson brought out the safety car after he out-broke himself and got his C34 beached in the gravel at turn 1.

… More to come

– Alex

Malaysian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Hello, dan selamat datang ke Kuala Lumpur! Round two of the 2015 Formula 1 Championship gets underway at the Sepang International Circuit. The 5.543km circuit runs clockwise for 56 laps, through 15 corners, and two DRS zones. The opening sequence of corners requires good engine tractability, as the right hander for turn 1 immediately snakes into a tight left-hander into turn 2. In wet conditions (and let’s face it, Malaysia is pretty wet), there are a lot of slippy racing lines. Turn 3 requires a lot of driver confidence to take the long right-hander at speed to open out to the straight leading into the heavy braking zone of Langkawi corner. The second sector is made up of a series of high speed corners, requiring a stiffer suspension set up. Sepang is a punishing track in terms of tyre wear and brake wear, with turn 7 being particularly tricky on the tyres, and turn 9 hard on the brakes. The final sector is the fastest sector of the track, with the second DRS zone on the back straight, it’s full throttle into the hairpin at turn 15. Given the number of different racing lines that can be taken, overtaking is quite common through turns 1 and 2, as well as turn 15.

Qualifying got underway in typical tropical form, wet. Q1 started dry, but with the ominous threat of rain, it wasn’t until Q2 that the skies finally opened, making the first lap of Q2 the deciding passage into Q3. After a short delay, the track had dried enough for the session to resume, as drivers wasted no time in exploring the tricky conditions. The Mercedes front row lock out has been broken for the first time in ten races, Hamilton still will start P1, but it’s Sebastian Vettel in the prancing horse that will start alongside him. Nico Rosberg is left P3, starting on the clean side of the second row.

Mercedes have yet again dominated the time sheets over the weekend, though it was Hamilton who kept his cool in the wet conditions in qualifying to secure pole yet again. Both the Mercedes were early out and early in during Q1, knowing that it was a well timed run in Q2 that would make the difference. Hamilton was not happy to be caught in traffic during Q2, complaining that he was let out too late. The Brit finished the second session in P8, though it didn’t really matter given that his Q3 lap time was 1.232s quicker than his teammate’s, and 0.74s faster than Vettel. Hamilton chose the tight line into turn 1, giving a wider entry into turn 2 for his final flying lap of the afternoon, giving him the edge over Vettel. Rosberg couldn’t find the right racing line in the wet conditions, with the F1 W06 crossing the line P3 on the inters with 1:50.299.

Sebastian Vettel repeated his 2014 effort in qualifying, once again splitting the Mercedes for P2, although this time for the Scuderia. Forever strong in the rain, Seb ran two sets of intermediate tyres, keeping himself at the top end of the time sheets. On his flying lap in Q3 to the wide line into turn 1, giving a tighter entry to turn 2, the opposite to Hamilton’s line, giving him a 1:49.908. Both Vettel and Hamilton were the only drivers who managed to dip into the 1:49s in the wet. Kimi Raikkonen’s only chance to get through to Q3 was spoiled at turn 1, and again at turn 15 by Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson. Ericsson in the C34, also on a flying lap, took a different line to Kimi in the SF15-T. Kimi caught in traffic put in a 1:42.173 on three-lap old medium tyres, settling Kimi for P11.

Red Bull Racing line up on the second and third row of the grid, an improvement from Australia. Both RB11s made it through to the final session. Daniel Ricciardo, starting P4, was just 1.242s behind Nico Rosberg’s fastest Q3 time in the wet. Red Bull are traditionally strong in the wet due to the set up of the car, more downforce means better grip through the corners, and minimises the speed advantage from the Mercedes power unit. Daniil Kvyat was momentarily in the drop zone in Q1, though his final flying lap saw him leap frog up to P6. Kvyat improved his position in the final session to start in P5, after setting a 1:51.951.

Scuderia Toro Rosso, like their big sister, ventured out on the hard compound tyres in Q1 before making the swap to the intermediates. Max Verstappen equalled his father’s best career qualifying in his second race in Formula 1. Verstappen’s 1:51.981 on the inters slot the STR9 into P6, just behind Daniil Kvyat. Verstappen was at home in the wet, taking wide lines, and being confidently late on the braking. Carlos Sainz was unlucky not to make it through to Q3, after suffering from a lock up into turn 14 giving him a handful of oversteer. The mistake cost the rookie considerable time, and as the rain began to bucket down he was unable to put in another lap. 1:43.701 puts the STR9 in P15.

Williams Martini Racing qualified somewhat out of order, with the FW37 not as nimble in the wet. In the dry opening session, both the Williams were within the top 5 of the time sheets on the medium compound tyre. Even as conditions deteriorated in Q2, Massa and Bottas easily made it through to Q3. The final 12 minutes of qualifying came down to strategy, with the team attempting to get Massa and Bottas last across the line to take advantage of the dry(ish) line appearing. In the end, a 1:52.473 for Massa, and 1:53.179 for Bottas put the two Williams in P7 and P9 respectively.

Marcus Ericsson made it through to the top ten shoot out for the first time in his career. Despite holding up Kimi Raikkonen in Q2, the Swede managed a flying lap on the inters, to see him through to eventually qualify P10 with 1:53.261. Felipe Nasr was unable to keep up his early qualifying form from Australia, a rear wheel lock-up into turn 4 spoiled Nasr’s flying lap in Q1, resulting in the Brazilian’s 1:41.308 placing him P16.

Lotus F1 Team were tipped to be a dark horse in qualifying, with the E23 expected to qualify between P6 and P8. Both Grosjean and Maldonado made it out of Q1. Grosjean had a little twitch onto the back straight of his final flying lap in the opening session. Maldonado had a slightly bigger moment into turn 1, though still managed to set the fastest sector 1 time in Q1… The E23 has never tested with wet weather tyres, so the team made the cautious decision to go out on the full wets in the opening stint of Q2, then swapping to the intermediates. Unfortunately neither Grosjean or Maldonado were able to complete their flying laps on the intermediate tyres. Grosjean’s 1:41.209 was enough to see him through to the top ten shoot out, though Maldonado’s 1:42.198 just missed out, qualifying P12. Grosjean went on in Q3 to qualify P8 with 1:52.261 on the inters.

With the rain failing just a little too late for Force India, Nico Hulkenberg managed 1:43.023 on his one and only run in Q2 for P13. Sergio Perez gave it all he had in the back end of Q1, needing to find a few hundredths on his lap to ensure his passage to Q2. A well put together time of 1:41.036 saw the Mexican squeeze his way through. In Q2 however as the fast approaching rain began to fall, the one and only flying lap Perez was able to put in on the medium compound tyres was 1:43.469, only enough for P14. Perez’s qualifying was somewhat compromised by being the last car out in Q2, meaning he was unable to find a clear piece of track.

McLaren continued to struggle, as both failed to make it out of Q1 for the second round running. With the MP4-30 still down on power, both Button and Alonso put in 8 laps each on the medium compound tyre, but remained in the drop zone for the entirety of the session. On their final flying lap, two duo gave it everything, but the Honda power unit could only deliver enough for Button to qualify with 1:41.636 in P17, ahead of Alonso’s 1:41.746 for P18.

Manor F1 Team will race at the stewards discretion tomorrow** after Roberto Mehri failed to make the 107% rule (1:46.218s), missing out by 0.4s. Will Stevens wasn’t able to run at all in qualifying, with a fuel system issue from FP3 keeping him in the garage for the rest of the afternoon. Stevens was able put in laps inside the 107% cut off time in the earlier practice sessions, proving that the Manor cars have the pace to keep up, they just need the chance to do so.

Race day strategy is completely dependant, yet again, on the race. The abrasive nature of Sepang is ridiculous on tyre wear, so a dry race could even be a three stopper. If the rain falls*, this will benefit the Red Bulls’ and Toro Rossos’, closing the gap to the Mercedes power. Williams and Force India struggled the most in the wet conditions. So, Sunday’s race is Hamilton’s to defend and Rosberg’s to recover, personally I’ll be looking at what the Ferraris’ do now they’re within reaching distance of the Mercedes. Forever keeping my fingers crossed for a wet race in Malaysia, see you tomorrow.

– Alex

* Turns the circuit into a river

** Manor received approval from the FIA at 19:37 local time Saturday evening to start the race.

Italian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Hello everyone! It’s Tom Grantham here filling in for Alex for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at the legendary Monza! One of the hottest topics on the grid this weekend has been the replacement of gravel with Astroturf around the Parabolica corner. This has generated several drivers’ excitement at the decreased risk of damaging their cars if they go too wide off the corner. This is certainly a safer change, but let’s be honest, it adds some excitement to this corner as drivers will now attack it with a braver pace…providing they don’t brake too late!

It has also been revealed that Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat has incurred his first engine penalty for this season after his engineers put a new V6 engine into his car on Friday evening to fix issues with his car. Kvyat will now start with a ten-place grid penalty.

Now, before I continue on to talk about qualifying I would like to take a moment to talk about the rough diamond* and the prince, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The two former friends now have a schoolboy tiff that has now surpassed the likes of Vettel and Webber, thanks to an exchange of team orders and car parts on the circuit. It is clear that while there is an obvious division in the garage, Mercedes are not going to let this split the team up as heard by Hamilton’s and Rosberg’s responses during Thursday’s drivers conference. It is clear as the championship reaches its climax, all eyes will be on the feuding few while other drivers (see Ricciardo/Alonso/Bottas/Massa/Anyone on the grid) may take the advantage and slip by under the radar.
A quick mechanical note: Different drag combinations on Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren cars have taken place pre qualifying to help manage the cars on the circuit and a change to the Mercedes engines has been noted which will make it easier for the Williams duo to submit more competitive laps. This showed during Qualifying. It is also worth a mention that during pre-qualifying it was discovered that Hulkenberg once again encountered electrical issues with his Force India.

Onto qualifying!

A very mechanically interesting qualifying session from the word “go”. After some gear box issues, Rosberg exited the pits a few minutes later than he wanted to, however he did not let this fracture his pole chances. Both Mercedes went out on the circuit on hard compounds making commentators question if a one-stop strategy would be on the cards for the troublesome duo. Sutil drives out on to the circuit with hydraulic problems while Kobayashi enters the first recorded lap with a time of 1:28.299. Shortly after the tifosi loose themselves with fiery red Ferrari filled emotion as Alonso hits pole position with 1:26.514, Rosberg flies through taking pole with 1:24.862. Queue a qualifying battle between Rosberg and Hamilton, where Hamilton hits 1:25.571 and Rosberg narrowly gets 1:25.607. Massa sneaks his way into second while the two McLarens each hit a starting 1:30s time. Ricciardo stole ninth while Massa stole pole with 1:25.528 with eight minutes of the session to go. Thirty seconds later Rosberg steals first again with 1:25.493 travelling 353.9 km/h through the speed trap while Lotus F1 Team’s Grosjean returns to the garage after springing a leak. With just over six minutes to go Vettel became reckless by going too wide through the apexes of Ascari chicane and then too wide onto the brand new Astroturf at Parabolica, loosing time. With just under 6 minutes left Hamilton steals first again with 1:25.363, while Rosberg considers a gearbox change with his engineers, the risk is too high.

In a last ditch effort; Hulkenberg flies out in the last few minutes of Q1 with a very shaky performance under pressure running a time of 1:26.665 placing him in ninth position. Bianchi also rushes out onto the circuit after experiencing issues and places eighteenth between Lotus’ Maldonado in seventeenth and Grosjean in nineteenth while passing the chequered flag. At the end of Q1 Hamilton describes his final pole lap as poor with his front right wheel locking up into turn one and again into Ascari chicane pushing too wide into the second apex. I guess you cannot be perfect while shooting a Pharrell Williams music video at the same time as driving an F1 car.
Knockouts at the end of Q1: Maldonado, Grosjean, Kobayashi, Bianchi, Chilton, and Ericsson.

Hulkenberg exits the pits first and places a time of 1:31.488, which is later beaten by Kvyat with 1:26.265. Rosberg flew out of the pits and set a lap of 1:24.682, then followed by Bottas, Alonso, Perez, and Raikkonen. Massa then captures second place with a 1:25 flat showing the start of a weekend long battle between Mercedes and Williams. Meanwhile, Alonso oversteers on Parabolica and discovers the new joys that is the Astroturf and regains control of his car back on the circuit. With seven and a half minutes remaining Rosberg is told to come to the pits to conserve his car while Ricciardo and Vettel both place sixth and seventh respectively while Hamilton steals first with 1:24.540. Button pushes for fifth in a show to try to keep his contract at McLaren pushing his teammate into the bottom six.

With just over five minutes to go, Rosberg re-enters the circuit in an attempt to beat Hamilton’s time, but is unsuccessful but still shows to be the fastest through the speed trap with 353.9 km/h. With four minutes left Rosberg returns to the pits. With just over one minute and twenty seconds remaining Raikkonen pushes for a better lap but makes a mistake through Ascari chicane. With a last ditch effort Vettel secures seventh place and Raikkonen misses out on Q3.
Knockouts at the end of Q2: Kvyat, Raikkonen, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Sutil, and Gutierrez.

From the start of Q3 it was clear that it was going to be a time battle between Mercedes and Williams, with both Williams drivers pushing hard against the sturdy boshe and the prepubescent Brit. All cars go out from the start of the ten-minute session to get their laps out, Perez goes first with a time of 1:26.230, one second slower than expected of him, while Rosberg and Bottas hit 1:25.552 and 1:24.697 respectively putting Massa in pole position. It looked good for Williams as Massa gains 1:24.845 securing second place. By the five-minute mark, Hamilton and Rosberg had already beaten Bottas and Massa’s times and everyone went back to the pits.
With just over two minutes left of Q3, Rosberg, both McLaren drivers and a few more go back out onto the circuit again in a last ditch effort to improve lap times. Rosberg continues to secure his second place position while not managing to snatch pole from Hamilton while McLaren’s collective efforts show Magnussen taking fifth place from Button, pushing Button to sixth, creating an all Mercedes front row, all Williams second row, and all McLaren third row.

Results from Qualifying:
1. Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Rosberg (Mercedes)
3. Bottas (Williams-Mercedes)
4. Massa (Williams-Mercedes)
5. Magnussen (McLaren-Mercedes)
6. Button (McLaren-Mercedes)
7. Alonso (Ferrari)
8. Vettel (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
9. Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
10. Perez (Force India-Mercedes)
11. Kvyat (STR-Renault)
12. Raikkonen (Ferrari)
13. Vergne (STR-Renault)
14. Hulkenberg (Force India-Mercedes)
15. Sutil (Sauber-Ferrari)
16. Gutierrez (Sauber-Ferrari)
17. Maldonado (Lotus-Renault)
18. Grosjean (Lotus-Renault)
19. Kobayashi (Caterham-Renualt)
20. Bianchi (Marussia-Renault)
21. Chilton (Marussia-Renault)
22. Ericsson (Caterham-Renault)

While there were no major race incidents during qualifying it was a clear show of good competitive driving and team management ending with a first row of Mercedes, second row of Williams and third row of McLaren which is exactly the sort of start that both Williams and McLaren need right now. The results and general performance of Vettel and Ricciardo show that Red Bull Racing seems to have dropped a little in pace which will hopefully be addressed by their engineers tonight before Sundays race. But that said, with Red Bull dropping their pace and McLaren stepping up, it is clear to me that we are all in for an interesting race at the classic Monza circuit tomorrow.

– Tom Grantham

* Actually a HAM sandwich.

Belgian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Mercedes lock out the front row of the grid ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, though it was Nico Rosberg who could hold his own in the tricky track conditions, to out qualify his team-mate for pole position. Lewis Hamilton, therefore settles to start alongside in P2, with Sebastian Vettel still two seconds behind for P3. The Spa circuit lived up to its reputation of varying track conditions during qualifying. A massive downpour in the hour before the first session ensured that the already challenging track was, shall we say; moist. The slippy track resulted in many an off-moment for most of the grid.

Mercedes still clearly have the lead on the rest of the grid, qualifying a full two seconds ahead of Vettel’s Red Bull. Nico Rosberg kept a level head during all three sessions. While playing the usual game of cat and mouse between his team-mate for provisional pole, it was a more calculated racing line that saved Rosberg time, securing him pole position. Hamilton suffered several off-moments during qualifying, mostly around the Bus Stop Chicane, though he could be seen twitching through Eau Rouge in Q2. With no mechanical issues for the F1 W05* , Hamilton has nothing to fall back on, he just wasn’t quick enough for Rosberg today.

Red Bull appear to be closing the gap to the Mercedes, albeit, not by much. Vettel stayed on the intermediate tyres for all three sessions, a risky choice as rain continued to spatter the track, but a risk that paid off nonetheless. In the final session, Vettel ran wide after swapping to fresh intermediates and not having his tyres up to temperature. It took three laps on the new tyres for Vettel to set a time of 2:07.717 for P3.

Ricciardo continues to challenge his team-mate, briefly pushing him into the drop zone in during Q2. Also choosing the stick with the intermediate tyres, Ricciardo recovered from a rather thrilling twitch through Blanchimont to sit just behind Vettel with 2:07.911. The Australian sat in P4 until Alonso crossed the line, settling him to start P5 on the grid.

Alonso had a few moments throughout the day, suffering a right front lock up in Q2, and a few twitches at Eau Rouge in Q3, though overall had quite a positive qualifying. The Ferrari driver put his F14 T through its paces; with slightly better straight-line speed for P4. Raikkonen ran a different wing to Alonso during qualifying, choosing a higher downforce setup to give advantage in sector two. Kimi was rather slow to get going in the first session, venturing out first for two laps on wets, then diving back for inters. When he eventually set a lap time it was more than enough to see him through. Not wanting a repeat of qualifying in Hungary, the team kept Raikkonen out to ensure his passage to the next sessions. In the second session, Kimi catapulted himself from P14 to P5 on the inters, finally coming to rest in P8 in the final session with 2:08.780, 0.994s behind Alonso.

Williams had an interesting qualifying, with the FW36 almost running out of steam towards the end of Q3. Starting strong in the early session, Bottas and Massa challenged for the top end of the time sheets behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls. Though as the day progressed, the Williams didn’t appear to cope as well with the varying conditions. In the wet, Bottas coped well compared to the rest of the grid, though as the track began to dry and the team swapped to the intermediate tyres his advantage diminished slightly. Still very comfortably making it through to the final qualifying session, Bottas steadily found his way back to manage a lap of 2:08.049, for P6. It was a similar story for Massa, finishing the day still 1.7s behind his team-mate, in P9.

McLaren will no doubt be hoping for another dampening of the track during tomorrows race, with the MP4-29 clearly preferring the wet weather. Magnussen did manage to out-qualify his team-mate once again for P7, pushing Raikkonen down to P8 in the final moments of Q3. Jensen Button was under pressure at the end of Q2 after falling into the drop zone (with a lap set by Magnussen), Button pulled it out of the bag and managed to safely make it through to the final session. However, his pace didn’t continue in Q3, failing to improve on his Q2 time, Button will round out the top ten with 2:09.776.

Kvyat was unlucky not to make it to the top ten shoot out, though had a positive qualifying all the same. On his first out lap, the Russian went off at turn 9, with the Spa circuit biting back at the rookie. This was Kvyat’s only real moment, and he went on to set 2:09.377 for P11. Vergne’s pace started off stronger than his team-mate’s, lapping faster in the first session. In the second session however, Vergne couldn’t find the extra 0.5s that Kvyat could, making 2:09.805 on intermediate tyres his best effort for P12.

Force India had a very bipolar qualifying as Nico Hulkenberg didn’t make it out of the first session. Sergio Perez was luckier, lapping a second faster to make it through to Q2. Only improving his Q1 time by half a second, Perez eventually qualified P13 with 2:10.084. It appeared to be a strategic error that cost Hulkenberg his qualifying, with the VJM07 sitting in the garage for the first half of the session. Hoping for a dry line to have emerged, Hulkenberg ventured out on intermediates, though lost time in sector two on cold tyres (and no dry line). The result was 2:11.267 and P18.

Adrian Sutil managed to make it through to Q2, improving over the afternoon to set a lap time of 2:10.238 for P14. However, Sauber suffered from a lack of luck for Esteban. His C33 crawled to a stop during the first qualifying session. Despite only getting in four laps before losing drive, Gutierrez still out-qualified the Caterhams, so you know, small victories.

There were more small victories for Lotus, as Romain Grosjean made it through to the second session. Maldonado didn’t quite make the cut, being pushed out by Magnussen in the final moments of Q1. Pastor was one of the first to feel Spa’s sting, losing the back of his E22 into the Bus Stop Chicane, (you’re not actually meant to park there). The Enstone team therefore starts a little further back than they would have hoped for with Grosjean in P15, and Maldonado P17.

Bianchi continues to impress Marussia (and myself) after another strong performance in qualifying. On the intermediate tyres, Bianchi ended the first session in P14 on the time sheets, ahead of Magnussen and equal with Sutil. In Q2 the MR03 couldn’t keep up, with Bianchi failing to improve on his earlier time to qualify P16. Still, a Marussia in Q2 is a rather impressive achievement. Max Chilton has resolved his contractual issues, though I would have rather seen Alexander Rossi take the MR03 for a spin. Chilton delivered his usual qualifying performance, no real incidents, no real pace for P19.

Caterham have changed their driver line up for the Belgian Grand Prix. Standing in for Kobayashi, Andre Lotterer made his qualifying debut in Formula 1. Lotterer had a slow start to the session. Taking his time to lap within the 107% rule, though managed 2:13.469 after nine laps, out-qualifying Ericsson for P21. Marcus Ericsson therefore rounds out the grid in P22.

It’s difficult to know what to expect at Spa. There has been many a first lap incident on the run down to La Source, with the safety car making an appearance at eight of the last twelve Belgian Grand Prix. Whether tomorrow will deliver such carnage of the past is unknown. However, at a circuit like Spa-Francorchamps, it will undoubtedly be a beautiful race to watch.

– Alex

* And nothing in his eye

Belgian Grand Prix: Track Analysis

Bonjour, et bienvenue à le Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps! After the seemingly endless Summer Shutdown, the championship resumes for Round 12 at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix. The track runs clockwise for 44 laps, the fewer number of laps given that Spa is the longest circuit on the calendar, at an immense 7.004km. Comprised of a mix of highs-peed corners, slow(er) corners, and dramatic elevation changes, Spa is a very challenging track.

Turn 1, La Source, marks the slowest corner on the track before (if you make it out unscathed) opening up to Eau Rouge. There is a risk of cars bottoming out* at the bottom of Eau Rouge, the long sweeping corner should therefore dictate drivers’ ride-height for the rest of the circuit.

With DRS assistance along the Kemmel Straight into sector two, Les Combes offers a lovely opportunity to overtake. The second sector is made up of slow corners (that’s a relative term there…) where mechanical grip is important. A good exit at Turn 15 for the Curve Paul Frère is needed to take Blanchimont at full speed, and into the Bus Stop Chicane for another opportunity to overtake.

Spa is a low drag, lower downforce circuit. So an aerodynamically efficient setup is favoured to assist in straight-line speed for sectors one and three. Teams opting for more rear wing are typically going for a stronger sector two. Despite having 19 corners, brake wear is considered light, giving an indication of just how little braking is needed.

The Belgian Grand Prix is a favourite among drivers and spectators; it’s not hard to see why.

– Alex

* Lol, bottom.

Hungarian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Nico Rosberg just snatched pole position from Sebastian Vettel in the final moments of qualifying, with Valtteri Bottas just a tenth of a second behind the Red Bull. Qualifying was a bit of a mixed bag with track conditions, and grid positions. Rosberg topped the time sheets throughout all three sessions, though Hamilton’s potential in the session will never be known. A fuel leak to Hamilton’s F1 Wo5 meant the Brit’s qualifying went up in flames only a few minutes into the first session, literally. The team now have the choice for Hamilton to start from either the back of the grid of the pit lane.

The second sector played right into the Red Bulls hands, as both Vettel and Ricciardo put in good qualifying performances. The RB10 benefit’s the most from the low-speed-high-downforce nature of the Hungaroring. Vettel kept the pressure on Rosberg all through qualifying, as he even managed to out qualify Ricciardo with a 1:23.201, which for a brief moment looked good enough for pole position. Ricciardo was just 0.190s behind Vettel, taking P4.

Bottas split the two Red Bull after a very clean qualifying session. The Williams driver ran well in all three sessions, keeping up at the top of the time sheets with every timed lap. The Finn only went out on one timed lap in the second session, but managed to get it in before the double waved yellows for Kvyat’s spin at the final corner, securing him a place in Q3. Massa was less than a second behind his team mate through out the afternoon though couldn’t improve on his final lap in Q3, settling for P6.

Ferrari had the strongest strategy in qualifying*, keeping both Alonso and Raikkonen in the garage at the end of the first session. Alonso was safe, making it through to Q3 to put in a time of 1:23.909 on the soft compound tyres for P5. Assuming that both drivers were safe to go through to the second session, Raikkonen’s 1:26.792 on the medium compound tyres was knocked into the drop zone with P17 by a late run by Bianchi in the Marussia. To add insult to injury, the Ferrari Academy driver is rumoured to replace Kimi at the Scuderia when the Finn retires.

McLaren’s MP4-29 has benefited from the banning of FRIC, and the high downforce circuit. Button finished the session in a strong position for the team, sitting in P4 with 1:24.294 on the soft compound, until Massa and Alonso improved on their times. Ricciardo’s final run pushed Button down to start P7. Magnussen’s session was cut short only a few minutes into Q3. On the run down into turn 1, the track conditions suddenly changed from dry to wet. The Dane had no grip, or opportunity to reduce his speed as he careered side on into the barriers. The hefty impact red flagged the session with 9:59 mins left. With no time set, Magnussen will start from pit lane.

It was a good session for Vergne, who in the Toro Rosso made it through to Q3. Vergne steadily improved throughout the afternoon, until damp track conditions in the final session saw the STR9 a little more tentative on the lap. The light rain at the start of the session wasn’t enough to bring out the inters, so on the soft compound tyres Vergne put in a 1:24.720 for P8. Kvyat span at T12 at the end of Q2. The STR9 looked to have an issue with the brakes, losing the back on the final corner and causing double waved yellows. The Russian’s time of 1:24.706 before his incident was good enough to put the Toro Rosso in P11.

Force India were slow to get it together in qualifying. Hulkenberg sat near the drop zone in Q1, as even on the soft compound tyres he couldn’t get the VJM07 to bite into the corners. On a late run in Q1, the Force India got it together and pulled himself out of danger. The grip improved as the session went on, with Hulkenberg eventually putting in a 1:24.775 in the final session for P9. Sergio Perez was another mechanical casualty in qualifying. A hydraulic leak put a premature end to the Mexican’s session, set to start P13.

Both Sutil and Gutierrez made it through to Q2 for Sauber, despite the C33 looking less than compliant at the Hungaroring. Even on the grippier** soft compound tyres, the Sauber didn’t appear to bite down into the corners. Sutil battled the C33 to put in a 1:25.136 for P12. Gutierrez was unlucky to get caught in Kvyat’s yellow flags, backing off and unable to improve on his 1:25.260 for P14.

Grosjean was the only Lotus out in qualifying. Maldonado barely made it passed the pit exit before his E22 called it a day, forcing the Venezuelan to park up on the side of the track. Grosjean, like the Force India, was slow to get it together in Q1, but pulled himself through with an impressive late run at the end of the first session. Grosjean improved on his Q1 time, but not enough to make an appearance in the final session. The best the Frenchman could get out of the E22 was 1:25.337 for P15.

Marussia have a lot of reason to celebrate in one half of the garage, with Bianchi making an impressive appearance in Q2 by knocking out Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the first session. Bianchi qualified P16, though his final flying lap was compromised by double waved yellows. Chilton had a less exciting session, with a fuel pressure issue leaving him with a slower than usual lap, qualifying P19.

Caterham unsurprisingly round out the back of the grid, with Kobayashi qualifying P18 ahead of Ericsson’s P20. A small positive for the team, Ericsson’s 1:28.643 was this time within the 107% time (1:30.886) this session.

Usually, it would be expected that Hamilton would make his way through the field easily from the back of the grid. At the Hungaroring, where overtaking is extremely difficult, it would be lucky if he made it into the points… if he weren’t Lewis Hamilton. As much as I hate to admit it, the Mercedes driver is one of the only drivers on the grid who’d be able to drive to the kind of calibre to overtake the majority of the field. Even with the playing field somewhat levelled, Mercedes power continue to dominate, though this is Red Bull’s best chance of a win since Canada. In any case, tomorrow’s race will be unmissable.

– Alex

* That’s sarcasm in case you couldn’t tell.

**Another technical term there

British Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

‘Allo, and welcome to the British Grand Prix. The unofficial home of Formula 1, takes place at Silverstone. The 5.891km circuit is fast flowing, but puts a lot of pressure on the tyres. The mix of slow corners through turns 6 and 7, and high speed corners through 10,11,12,13, and 14 requires a balance of aerodynamics and grip. The stewards are continuing their strict attitude to exceeding disallowing lap times, focusing on exceeding the track limits at turns 9 (Copse) and 18 (Club). Saturday delivered a drizzly qualifying (but could we really expect anything different from an English summer). The grid headed out on intermediates, but  some swapped to the medium compound tyres with a dry line emerging, before more rain forced strategies back to the inters. The variety of conditions played Russian roulette with tyre strategies and scrambled the starting grid. Adding to the confusion of the session, double yellows caused by Sutil kept the Ferraris and Williams in the drop zone and pushed both Marussias into Q2, leaving a “what on earth happened?” feeling for many of the teams. In the final flurry of times in Q3, Nico Rosberg snatched pole from Sebastian Vettel by 0.294s. Jensen Button achieved his best qualifying result since Brazil 2012 starting from P3.

Mercedes were once again consistently quick at the circuit, though the team didn’t manage a front row lock out for the second year running. Lewis Hamilton, feeling comfortable with 1:39.232 (for provisional pole) backed off as the session ended so Rosberg could have a final flying lap. Unfortunately for the ‘crowd favourite’, not only did his team mate lap quicker, but so did half of the field who were also on their final lap. A, no doubt confused and unhappy Hamilton has to accept starting from P6. Though, as Austria showed us, don’t count on Hamilton staying behind for long.

The pressure was on the reigning world champion in Q2 after his 1:44.085 (putting him at the very top of the time sheets) was deleted for exceeding the track limits at turn 9. By the time the decision had been made, Vettel had already pit for slick tyres. In Q3, Vettel aborted his first flying lap on the medium tyres as the track became wetter. At the two minute warning, Vettel went out on the medium tyres for his only timed lap, he pulled it out of the bag taking provisional pole with 1:37.386, until Rosberg crossed the line, pushing him down to P2. Ricciardo suffered from a poor strategy as the team chose not to send him back out at the two minute warning of Q3. The Australian was sitting P4 with his 1:40.606, but was bumped down P8 as both the Force Indias and McLarens tried for one more lap.

It’s been a while since McLaren looked competitive, but the MP4-29 thrived during qualifying as a result of good strategy and good grip. Button was lucky to make it through to the second session after having his lap time disallowed in the final minutes of Q1. The Brit had it all on the line with one last attempt for the session, which was enough to comfortably get him back out of the drop zone. At the two minute warning of Q3, Button ventured back out on the medium tyres, it was a risk, but it paid off for the Brit. Button crossed the line with 1:38.200 securing P3. Magnussen, though having a quiet qualifying, also benefited from the sudden competitive nature of the McLaren, qualifying a strong P5.

Both Force India drivers made their first appearance in Q3 at Silverstone after a strong qualifying for both drivers. Hulkenberg was  quickest of the two VJM07s, taking the honours of bumping Hamilton’s provisional pole with 1:38.329. As Vettel and Button crossed the line, Hulkenberg’s time was shuffled down to P4, which is still a really strong result for the team in tricky conditions. Perez on the medium compound tyres was early out in Q3, to get quick lap in on the dry tyres. Similarly to Hulkenberg, Perez’s laps were clean, with the VJM07 coping well in the varying track conditions. Perez was the quickest of the 1:40s, with 1:40.457s for P7.

Toro Rosso have always been competitive on a wet track, and today was no different. The team sent their drivers out early in Q3 on the medium tyres, while the track was still dry (that’s a relative term btw…). Kvyat set the pace in Q3 with a 1:40.707 ahead of Vergne’s 1:40.855. It was just the one attempt for Toro Rosso in the final session, with Kvyat finishing up with a P9 and Vergne marking the middle of the grid with P10.

It was a bittersweet qualifying for Lotus. The E22 looked more competitive than in recent rounds, as Grosjean was unlucky not to take part in the top ten shoot out, while Maldonado starts from the back end of the grid. Grosjean had his lap time in Q2 deleted for exceeding track limits, and unfortunately couldn’t improve on his time at the end of the session, leaving the Lotus to start P11. Maldonado was asked to stop track side after a fuel pressure issue at the end of Q2. While Maldonado obeyed the team’s request, I hardly think they intended him to drive slowly though the bumpy gravel trap to do so… In any case, the Venezuelan’s P15 was disqualified due to the fuel infringement, meaning the E22 will start P20.

Marussia both made it through to the second qualifying session… Yes, even Chilton. The second session was dryer, which played an advantage for Marussia who were amongst the first drivers to head out on the medium compound tyres. It was a risk, but paid off with both drivers cracking less than the 1:40s. As the second session drew to a close, both the Marussias were still out of the dropzone, sitting P6 and P7. It was only really due to Gutierrez’s yellow flags that caught out Bianchi and Chilton on their final flying lap, shuffling the time sheets once more. Bianchi was quicker by 1.09s with 1:38.709 for P12, ahead of Chilton’s 1:39.800 for P13. Chilton however drops 5 places due to an unscheduled gearbox change over the weekend.

Sauber caused havoc during qualifying, first with Sutil’s double yellows in Q1, and then again with Gutierrez in Q2. Gutierrez got on to the white line on the exit of turn 6, sending him straight off onto the grass and into the barrier. The Sauber qualified P14, but holds his ten place grid penalty for unsafe release from Austria. Sutil beached himself in the gravel at turn 6, with only a few seconds left of Q1. The team risked sending Sutil out on the medium compound tyres at the end of the session after a dry line was emerging. The Sauber however appeared to be unable to get the heat into the tyres, and had no grip going into Brooklands, running straight off the track. Despite not finishing the session, Sutil’s time of  1:42.603 was good enough for P16.

Williams were late arrivals in Q1, eventually heading out on the inters both Bottas and Massa only managed to get a few timed laps in before double yellows at the end of the session ruined any chance of another flying lap. It was a bit of an anti climax for the Williams team, coming from such a positive result from Austria. Neither Bottas or Massa looked particularly quick in the FW36. Bottas’ 1:45.318 was good enough only to qualify P17. Massa had a few slippy moments on track which he collected quite nicely*, but could only put in 1:45.695 to qualify P18. Admittedly, the Williams should have been able to qualify higher if it weren’t for Sutil’s incident at the end of the session.

Both the Ferraris were caught out at the end of the session, and would be rounding out the back of the grid if it weren’t for Maldonado and Gutierrez’s penalties. The Ferraris just weren’t there in qualifying sitting in the drop zone for most of the session. It’s been a terrible season for the team, but the F14 T really had no grip whatever in the tricky and wet conditions. Alonso span at turn 6 on a flying lap with only 35 seconds left in the session, leaving him not enough time to get back around for a final attempt. Raikkonen’s first attempt of a flying lap was deleted in accordance with article 12.3.1 of the Sporting Code (exceeding track limits). Crossing the line just before the end of the session, Raikkonen had one last attempt while Sutil was beached. But in the confusion, Alonso got in the way of his team mate and the Finn’s first sector was slow. Bizarrely, Ferrari were the slowest qualifying team with Alonso P19, and Raikkonen P20.

Ericsson had an off moment at the end of Q1, drifting and going sideways through the gravel trap disabling DRS momentarily. Kobayashi took to the track cautiously, but dived back into the pits before setting a lap time. Both Caterhams exceeded the 107% qualifying requirement, and will therefore race at the stewards discretion.

It was one of the strangest qualifying sessions when you look at the grid order. Marussia mid field, and Ferrari and Williams at the back of the grid sounds like some kind of April Fools. Hopefully, the random shuffle of experience and competitiveness throughout the starting grid will give way to some good driving. Alonso will have to work hard to make his way through the field, and Kimi, well, who knows what he will do really. Marussia may be able to hold their position for a while, but whether they can make the race distance keeping Williams and Ferrari behind then is rather unlikely. It’s set to rain again for the race, which again shuffles the grid. Let’s see what happens in the race, a wet race is a good race.

– Alex

* Just stay away from Stowe please.


Austrian Grand Prix: All Mercedes Podium

It was an all Mercedes podium for the Austrian Grand Prix, though not quite in the order that fans were hoping for. Nico Rosberg extended his championship starting from P3 on the grid to take the victory, ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. Pole sitter, Felipe Massa missed out on a podium finish due to tyre strategy, finishing P4. At lights out, Massa had a clean getaway extending his lead on the rest of the field. Rosberg squeezed Bottas out for second, but the Williams getting the better line into turn 2 took his position back. Meanwhile from P9 on the grid, Hamilton stormed his in between Kvyat and Raikkonen, and then Ricciardo and Magnussen to challenge Alonso for P5 going into turn 2. It was a good start for Perez, making up four positions on the opening lap as the rest of the field raced their way around the Red Bull Ring for the first time.

… More to come

– Alex

Qualifying Pole Felipe Massa (Williams-Mercedes)
Podium Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Valtteri Bottas (Williams-Mercedes)
Fastest Lap 1:12.142 (Force India-Mercedes)

Austrian Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Hallo, und willkommen auf der Austrian Grand Prix*. Formula 1 returns to Austria for the first time since 2003 at the newly renamed Red Bull Ring. The 4.326km circuit runs clockwise, and is the second shortest on the calendar. With only 9 corners, the track is an interesting combination of high speed straights into heavy braking and slow corners. One of the biggest issues that face drivers at the Red Bull Ring is the elevation change during the lap. This is especially apparent going into turns 8 and 9, where the car becomes light on the approach to turn 8, before dropping into turn 9. Resulting in a loss of grip and balance. The stewards have been heavy handed in disallowing lap times that exceed the track limits in the final sector, with no less than 14 drivers having their times disallowed throughout the sessions. While Mercedes power still dominated the time sheets, it was Williams who secured a front row lock out. Massa topped his team mate’s time by 0.087s to secure pole from Bottas. Rosberg qualified P3 on the supersofts, revealing the Mercedes to be slightly less competitive on the supersofts compared to the soft compound tyres.

Matching their pace for FP3, Williams hinted at the possibility of pole throughout qualifying. It was a squabble between the two Williams for pole, with Massa coming out on top. In the final session, Bottas pushed the Fw36 a little too hard on his first flying lap, locking up the right rear. The Finn went on the set the pace for Q3 with provisional pole. Team mate, Felipe Massa was equally quick on the supersofts, though sat P2 on the time sheets until Rosberg bumped him down to P3. In the final minutes of the session, Massa clinched pole position from his team mate, leaving Bottas to respond. On his final attempt however, Bottas drifted off the line out of turn 6, spoiling his challenge. So, the Finn must settle for a career best, P2.As each round progresses, I enjoy seeing Massa in the Williams livery just that little bit more. Since Ferrari decided not to renew the Brazilian’s contract for the 2014 season, Massa has began to race closer to his pre-accident form.

Mercedes have remained the team to beat throughout practice and qualifying, taking out their usual spot towards the top end on the time sheets. However, the Red Bull Ring has exposed a slight (emphasis on slight) weakness in the grip of the Mercedes on the supersoft compound tyres. The disadvantage is small, though it proved too much for Rosberg to challenge the Williams for a front row starting position. Both the Mercedes complained of understeer in the F1 W05, with Rosberg feeling it most at high speed. Hamilton failed to set a lap time in Q3. My tweeting prayers were answered when Hamilton ran wide at turn 8 on his first attempt on a flying lap, disallowing a 1:09.836, and then running off at turn 2 on his second attempt for a lap after locking his rear axle under braking. It was a bizarre moment for the Brit, and sees him start P9.

Ferrari had a better qualifying than recent rounds. Alonso carried his pace from free practice through to the final session, qualifying P4. The Spaniard had a rally moment during Q2 jumping over the grass on the exit of turn 9. He’d suffered from understeer, and lost grip, like many others, into the final corner. Raikkonen is still not comfortable in the Ferrari, and struggled to keep the F14 T balanced under braking. A lock up at turn 1 put Kimi’s best qualifying effort at P8.

At their home Grand Prix, Red Bull have had a somewhat bipolar performance. Both Ricciardo and Vettel had off track moments in the final corner during free practice, and it became apparent that the Bulls are not as competitive as they’d hoped in the Austrian countryside. Ricciardo just shaved enough of his time at the end of Q2 to secure him a spot in the final session, though Vettel’s best effort saw him eliminated at the end of the session. Ricciardo steadily improved on his time in the final session, and managed a competitive P5 in the end. Somewhat out of place, Vettel qualified P13, though will start P12 after Perez’s penalty.

It too was a bipolar performance for McLaren after Kevin Magnussen qualified P6, ahead of Jensen Button’s P12. The MP4-29 had improved over the weekend, though Magnussen clearly has the better handle of the car. Having missed FP3, Button struggled with the set up in qualifying, and was then caught in traffic behind Grosjean. At least with Perez’s grid penalty, the Brit moves up to P11 on the grid.

Recent track experience definitely paid off for Toro Rosso, as Kvyat made it safely through to Q3. On a late flying lap at the end of the session, the Russian rookie took P7 on the supersofts. Less familiar with the Red Bull Ring, Jean-Eric Vergne couldn’t put a clean lap together, struggling with the STR9. Keeping to the bipolar team performance, Vergne qualified P15, but will start P14.

It was a bittersweet qualifying for Force India. On a circuit where starting grid positions play a significant advantage, both Hulkenberg and Perez performed well but with not much to show for it. Easily making it through Q1, and eager to get temperature into the tyres, both Force India’s were out early in the second session, and sat best of the rest behind the Mercedes and Williams. Perez just missed out on Q3, and qualified P11. Unluckily for the team, the Mexican’s 5-place grid penalty for the last lap collision with Massa at the Canadian Grand Prix pushes him back down to P16. Hulkenberg did make it through to Q3, but had his late flying lap disallowed for running wide at turn 8, putting him back to P10. The result for Force India, having it all to do on Sunday.

Lotus struggled for both grip and speed during qualifying, with both drivers being eliminated in the second session. Even on the stickier supersoft tyres, the Renault power E22 proved difficult to control. Maldonado had an off track moment at the end of Q2, going wide at turn 5 and onto the gravel. Rather surprisingly, managed to out-qualify Grosjean for P14, though will start P13. While Maldonado had the scrappier, but quicker lap, Grosjean had better control, but slower laps. Early in Q1, the Frenchman put in a competitive time on fresh supersofts to bump him up to P7, though as the sessions wore on, the pace of the E22 began to fade. At the end of Q2, Grosjean qualified in P16, though will start P15**.

Sauber have been struggling in recent races, competing with the back markers rather than Force India and Lotus. The C33 has struggled for grip and balance over the weekend, resulting in slower lap times. Both drivers joined the exceeding track limits club, as Sutil and Gutierrez had times in Q1 disallowed. Sutil’s 1:10.774 would have been just enough to scrape him through to Q2, though Gutierrez’s 1:11.667 was still outside the Q2 cut off time. The best the team were allowed to muster puts Sutil in P17, and Gutierrez P18.

The back of the grid is rounded out the the familiar faces of Marussia and Caterham. Marussia’s Jules Bianchi was amongst the drivers to have their time disallowed for an off moment at turn 8, though his final flying lap still saw him out-qualify his team mate for P19. Max Chilton managed to keep his MR03 firmly on the grey stuff, though being half a second slower than Bianchi saw him qualify P21. However, Chilton does carry a three place grid penalty for causing the first lap collision with Bianchi at Canada, so will start P22.

Kobayashi and Ericsson had times disallowed in Q1, though both drivers were able to improve on their times while sticking within the track limits. Kobayashi is clearly within the battle with the Marussia’s, qualifying to split the two in P20. Marcus Ericsson’s early Q1 performance raises the question whether recent experience at the circuit in the junior formulas will play advantage to the newer driver’s on the grid. As the session progressed, Ericsson’s lap couldn’t remain competitive in the CT05, qualifying P22, though starting P21 thanks to Chilton’s penalty.

It will be a tough race for Massa and Bottas in trying to keep the Mercedes behind them. Though reasonably matched for speed with Mercedes, Williams’ have the advantage in grip at the Red Bull Ring, especially on the supersoft tyres. Most teams are favouring the supersoft tyres at the Red Bull Ring for as much grip as possible. Points for the most embarrassing  result from qualifying is tied between Sebastian Vettel’s elimination in Q2, and Lewis Hamilton’s failure to get a lap time on the board in Q3. While I don’t particularly enjoy Lewis Hamilton in general, I don’t mind the idea of watching him weave his way back to the front of the field. Hopefully the overtaking occurs in the corners, rather than down to the straight line speed of the Mercedes.

Adding an element of unpredictability to Sunday’s race, a recent understanding of the track elevation, and the limits to which you can push into a corner could definitely play advantage to the mid field teams with newer drivers, as seen by strong laps by Kvyat and Ericsson. No doubt an exciting race will unfold, with about 4 overtaking zones, some good battles too. We’ll have to wait and see who comes out on top.

– Alex

* I apologise if my grammar is poor. My German is a little rusty, and by that, I mean I’ve never learnt German.

** Grosjean will start now start from pit lane due to a late gearbox change