Well, it’s been a long wait, but we do get a juicy reward at the end. Spa: one of the finest of circuits and proof that tasty chocolates are not the only item of interest to originate in Belgium.
My own gut feeling, before P1 even begins, is that this will be more of a Red Bull-McLaren tussle, with Ferrari probably in third.
A few days before P1 it emerged that there would be quite a number of upgrades. For a start, Ferrari are getting a new diffuser. Then Renault announced they’d be implementing an F-duct, which should prove handy. McLaren also have something up their sleeve, but they haven’t said what and it’s not certain it’ll be ready for Spa.
The first practice session was gloomy and rainy, but, for the sake of completeness, I’ll list the top 10. Alonso led the field, followed by his best friend Hamilton, then Kubica, Vettel, Sutil, Button, Webber, Kobayashi, Barrichello and his best friend Schumacher.
The second practice session was drier, and thus somewhat more indicative of actual pace. El Grumpino was fastest again, then Sutil, Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Vettel, Button, de la Rosa, Barrichello and Kobayashi.
At this stage a slight pattern has emerged, with Alonso quickest, Hamilton second and then Kubica in third. However, I do not believe that the Red Bull has suddenly dropped so much pace it’s the 4th fastest car, and fully expect the two Red Bulls to be at the sharp end during P3 qualifying simulation.
In addition, Sutil’s been doing nicely, as has Barrichello.
In the latter stages of P3 Vettel’s engine lost power, but it doesn’t seem terminal (an airbox issue, which is fully resolved). The session was mostly dry, but wet at the end, annoyingly. The order was Webber, Hamilton, Vettel, Button, Kubica, Alonso, Massa, Sutil, Hulkenberg, Kobayashi.
The weather forecast is ominous, with rain probable.
So, we didn’t get a proper qualifying simulation, one of the big guns’ engines exploded (again), and the weather could be rainy. Or not.
I’ve discounted Alonso as a potential tip. He simply lacked pace in P3, when it counts. That leaves me with Hamilton at between 6 and 7 (presently 6.4) and Webber (4.9) for pole.
Quite a difficult decision (I’d tip both, but that’s the only way to guarantee a Vettel victory). The McLaren is fastest in sectors 1 and 3, the Red Bull in sector 2. I have more faith in Hamilton in the wet than Webber, so I’m going to tip Hamilton for pole at 6.4. As usual, I advocate hedging.
It should be an exciting qualifying session. The contenders are close, the weather is uncertain, and, as an immortal once said, there can be only one.