It’s the European Grand Prix, once again in Valencia. Before I get onto this race, a word on the last. Hamilton got poll by 0.2s in Canada, but the softs offer a 0.3s advantage. In other words, the Red Bulls would’ve been faster had they not tried to be as cunning as a fox with a handlebar moustache. After the unexpectedly awful consequences of going hard (no tittering, please) I doubt they, or Kubica, will do so again.
Last time Valencia was a rubbish track for Webber. He qualified 9th and got 9th in the race. Vettel qualified 4th and failed to finish due to his engine exploding. The McLarens did better, getting a 1-2 in qualifying and a 2-4 in the race. Past performance isn’t always a great indicator for the future, but Webber was dire here last time, and Vettel did better. The circuit is similar to Canada (slow corners aplenty), so given what happened last season and the Red Bull pace at Canada (belied by strategic and reliability failings) I’m keeping an eye open for Vettel to do well [I realise this is contrary to an earlier stated opinion of mine, but given that the team did better than I expected in Canada I think it’s fair enough to amend my view].
Not a great track for overtaking. One pass last year, four the year before. Seems like the grid may dictate the race result.
Silverstone should favour Red Bull, more than this track, which will be better for McLaren and perhaps also the upgraded Ferrari.
Anyway, there are numerous upgrades but perhaps the biggest leap forward has been made by the prancing horse. McLaren is also due for some big developments, in time for Silverstone.
In P1 Rosberg topped the timesheets, followed by Hamilton and Button. Kubica was 0.3s down the road, with Massa a further half second behind, then Vettel, Webber, Schumacher and Alonso quite tightly clustered.
P2 saw Alonso fastest, then Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Sutil and Button. However, the top 10 here were separated by less than a second. I suspect P3 will be perhaps the best indicator for qualifying. Going into it, my eye is out for Vettel and Alonso. Hamilton will probably, rightly, be favourite for pole, but that may mean Vettel and Alonso are too short.
The fastest times of P3 are hard to read, because lots of laps were ruined or slowed somewhat by traffic issues. Kubica was blitzing the track, though the commentary suggested that was a fuel issue (I tend to agree, as the Renault is not the best car in the field by a huge margin). Interestingly, the McLarens and Red Bulls got a time bonus from the super softs, whereas Alonso didn’t. The final rundown is Vettel, Kubica, Webber, Sutil, Alonso, Barrichello. Button and Hamilton were a shocking 9th and 10th.
So, it’s a Vettel-Webber-Alonso [possibly Kubica, though I doubt it] contest for pole. I’m backing Vettel at 3.85.