Practice sessions are handy for some guidance regarding times for cars and drivers, but this is clouded by the variable temperature, rubbering in of the track and different tyres/fuel loads.
In P1, the Force India of Sutil surprising topped the timesheets, followed by Alonso. Button and Hamilton were evenly matched, Webber beat Vettel by 0.7, but that must be due to fuel. Massa was a good 4th, Kubica surprised in 3rd (fuel effect, I think). Biggest surprise was Rosberg being 0.5s faster than Schumacher, a feat repeated in P2 and he beat Schumacher in P3 as well. According to BBC commentators, this is because the Merc tends towards understeer, which Rosberg loves and Schumacher hates. If this changes then Schumacher may get the uppet hand.
The Mercs and McLarens topped the timesheets in P2, when most seemed to be trying out heavy fuel loads. Hamilton managed to shred a set of hard tyres in 4 laps. If that happens in the race he’ll be stopping more often than a narcoleptic jogger. Vettel was 5th, Ferrari’s down in 7th and 9th.
Alonso topped P3, then Rosberg, Webber, Schumacher, Vettel, Massa, Button with Hamilton in 12th. However, Hamilton had an issue with one of his wheels which prevented him having a low fuel, soft tyre qualifying simulation run.
Naturally my pre-qualifying posts will focus on the qualifying markets (pole, reaching Q3) but I’ll have an eye on the others as well, just in case something stands out. It’s the first race, variable fuel has made sifting testing and practising for useful data difficult, so I thought I’d check Bahrain’s last three results to see if there are any extra pointers for qualifying.
Last year (of the big boys) Vettel was top (3rd) followed by Button and Hamilton. However, worth remembering Ferrari had a dog of a car that year. In 2008, Massa and Raikonnen were 2nd and 4th, with Hamilton and Kovalainen in 3rd and 5th. And in 2007 it was, from pole, Massa, Hamilton, Raikonnen and Alonso. Disregarding last year, when Ferrari made their brake discs from chocolate and their car was powered by the motor from a 2CV, this has been a pretty good track for Ferrari generally and Massa in particular. Alonso’s clearly regarded as the top driver by most, though I think it’s closer than most suspect.
I found this very difficult to try and call. Raikonnen beat Massa in most of the 2007 practices yet still lost out on pole, but Alonso’s looking very good. So, I decided to back both, Alonso at 3.25 and Massa at 6.8. First tips of the season (for a weekend), so a bit nervous but hopefully it’ll work out.
I was looking at backing Kubica for reaching Q3, but he’s only 1.3 which is far, far too low. I’d want 5 at least.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Qualifying starts at 11am. My pre-race post will be later than usual because I’m off out for lunch, but I imagine I’ll have the pre-race article up by late afternoon or early evening.