Correction from last time: “If Vettel gets 1st he needs Webber 3rd or lower [Webber has more wins] and Alonso 6th or lower [10 points for 5th now].” Is wrong, Vettel would have 1 more win so if he wins and Webber’s 2nd, he has 1 more win than Webber and ties with Alonso.
Cheers to, er, someone, for spotting that.
It’s Thursday, and I’ve just read there’s been rain in Abu Dhabi. Only light, but still rather unexpected. Present forecast is for some rain over the weekend but a dry race day, though qualifying might be a little soggy.
For full title permutations, the official website has helpfully put together a feature stating who must do what: http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2010/11/11509.html
Staggeringly, P1 was slightly wet as it had rained in Abu Dhabi beforehand. Due to engine usage, the Ferrari was not really firing on all cylinders and its time cannot be considered representative of actual pace.
P1 saw Vettel fastest, half a second ahead of Hamilton who was an equal margin ahead of Button in 3rd and Webber 4th. They were followed by Kubica, Alonso, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Rosberg and Heidfeld. Interesting to see the recent trend of Schumacher outpacing Rosberg continuing, and both Saubers doing well. I expect Alonso to improve from 6th come P3.
During P2 Brundle reported that Button and McLaren think rain is a real possibility on race day.
P2 had Hamilton a quarter second ahead of Vettel, who was about the same ahead of Alonso and Webber. They were followed by Kubica, Massa, Petrov, Button, Liuzzi and Rosberg. Strong performance so far from Hamilton.
P3 was entirely dry, and had Vettel fastest, then Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Button, Petrov, Schumacher, Rosberg, Kubica and Heidfeld. This is hard to read. BBC commentators believed that Red Bull were running a higher than usual fuel load at this stage to mask their true performance. Ferrari did not do the usual P3 qualifying simulation (a very low fuel, near to the end set of laps to show possible qualifying pace).
Weather forecasts for the qualifying, (5pm local time, 1pm UK time), indicate it should be dry. Normally I wouldn’t bother checking for a race in the desert, but it has been raining very recently.
So, qualifying. I’d be surprised if Webber got pole. Though not impossible, he’s run behind Vettel at every stage so far, and the German has been very quick of late. Ferrari’s lack of a qualifying simulation speaks of confidence but is rather unhelpful. Hamilton’s been running quite well, though the McLaren has an odd habit of being worse in qualifying than either practice or the race itself.
For me, it’s between Vettel and Alonso. Vettel had a heavier fuel load (probably) but we did get a time. Alonso may’ve set his time with heavier fuel, but didn’t set a more recent time. Right. Looking back to P2 [I’m ignoring P1 as there’s no way the Ferrari is over a second slower than the Red Bull] Vettel had a few tenths on Alonso.
The odds are presently Vettel 2.06 and Alonso 9.6. Got to say I’m tempted by those long odds. Checked back at the times for P3 and Hamilton was almost a second off Vettel, with Alonso almost identical to Hamilton. Even bearing in mind fuel and the track getting quicker, that’s pretty substantial.
So, my tip is for Vettel to get pole at 2.06. Not very exciting or out of left field, but I think him the likeliest chap to do it.
Update: I slightly misread the timings, it would seem, but it doesn't materially change anything. Hamilton was just over half a second off the pace, Alonso was 2-3 tenths off of him. Tip stays as is.