The second session was no less exciting, with Alonso doing a decent lap and the embarking on an off-road excursion to a gravel trap, which ended his qualifying. Despite this, Massa beat no-one’s time in Q2 (and only starts ahead of Perez because the Mexican didn’t complete a competitive lap). Di Resta was somewhat disappointing in 15th, and Senna did well to get his Williams to 14th. Alonso starts 12th.
Hamilton absolutely blitzed his first flying lap, which was about 0.7s better than everyone else for most of the session. He was unable to improve, and didn’t need to, nabbing a handy pole just ahead of Button. Shock of the day was Grosjean in the Lotus getting 3rd, which does make me wonder where Raikkonen could’ve been but for his mistake and how he’ll do in the race. Schumacher was surprisingly better than Rosberg, with the elder German 4th and his young apprentice 7th. Schumacher was also 0.3s ahead of Webber, who beat Vettel down to 6th. Maldonado did excellent work to get Williams to 8th, and Hulkenberg’s 9th was impressive, especially given it’s his first qualifying since that spectacular pole in Interlagos. Ricciardo rounds out the top 10.
A few musings on qualifying. Firstly, it’s very tight. There’s a tenth between the McLarens, suggesting they’ve somehow made a car that suits ragged Hamilton and smooth Button. Grosjean and Schumacher are separated by less than a tenth, and Webber, Vettel and Rosberg by less than four one-hundredths. Hedged bets in qualifying seem wise, given that.
Red Bull aren’t that quick. Well, not as quick as many expected them to be or as quick as they have been for the last two years. The real concern for them must be if they still have a qualifying premium (last year they were super in qualifying but the gap to the rest narrowed in race pace). If that’s the case they may go backwards once the lights go out.
McLaren are top dogs. It was expected they’d be there more or less, but the pace of the Mercedes and Lotus is a slight surprise. Ferrari’s car seems to be an absolute dog. Alonso might have made Q3 had he not crashed out, but Massa is well down. His days, and Domenicali’s, may well be numbered.
The Williams revival is quite a surprise, but nice to see. Sauber seemed to struggle, in 13th and 16th.
Just the one tip. I do tend to start seasons poorly, and we don’t know about reliability etc, but here it is: Schumacher for a podium, 3.4. No hedging. He tends to have monster starts, he’s been racing well, the car’s fast and the Mercedes DRS may be the best of the bunch for overtaking. Against that is that he starts on the dirty side of the track, but it’s more than 2/1 for him to make up one place.
The race starts at 6am tomorrow. I’ll try to remember to wake up for the start this time.