This Grand Prix weekend sees the soft and hard tyre compounds used, instead of the more usual soft/medium combination. I think we had soft and hard in Malaysia, but due to the monsoon that wasn’t very useful for assessing them (on the other hand, Barcelona’s a different circuit so we might not have learnt much of use anyway).
The teams have already tested at the Barcelona circuit, so they should have a good handle on set-up. However, as almost all of them are taking big upgrades that might increase the chances of getting set-up wrong, as well as potentially altering the already difficult-to-discern order.
This may mean that we find out which cars are really the fastest, as they should have optimal set-ups, but we might also see the drivers being the critical factor. The cars are very close together, or seem to be, so the chap behind the wheel could be the difference between doing well, or not.
It’ll be interesting to see if Ferrari manage to close the gap to the frontrunners.
Hamilton for pole is a kind of stock bet I suggested during the review piece I posted previously. In addition, I think the last seven races have seen just two with safety cars.
P1: I missed most of this but did hear that rear tyres seem to be degrading quite rapidly. It was also suggested that hard tyre performance could determine the race, meaning that P2 might be more useful than it was last year in terms of judging pace.
The order in P1 was Alonso, Vettel, Kobayashi and Button. Fifth was Bottas, the Williams reserve driver, then Schumacher, Grosjean, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. Don’t get too giddy about Alonso, as his time was apparently set on fresh tyres later than most others when the track had rubbered in. That doesn’t mean he might not be more competitive, though.
P2: I watched most of this. Although cameras can only show one thing at a time I was quite surprised by the lack of running on the hard tyre. As per the last race Lotus did a lot of high fuel running. From what I saw (and it was only a partial picture) the Lotus and McLaren looked very good on race pace, with McLaren and Red Bull the ones to beat for qualifying.
Surprisingly Button topped the timesheets, a little ahead of Vettel, who was followed by Rosberg, Hamilton and Raikkonen. Grosjean, Webber and Schumacher followed, with Kobayashi and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.
P3: I missed almost all of this due to a combination of irritating reasons. Anyway, the order was a surprise.
Vettel fastest (ok, not this bit), then Maldonado, Kobayashi and Webber. Perez, Alonso and Vergne followed, then Button, Raikkonen and Rosberg. Hamilton suffered traffic and he would’ve been at or near the sharp end if not for that.
Hard to pick, but I’ve gone for a single tip:
Webber to get pole at 10. Set up a hedge at 3. He’s won pole in Spain the last two years and beaten Vettel at every qualifying session this year except Bahrain.
From commentary in P3 it sounds like McLaren is compromised on the hard tyre, which is a serious concern for them.
I’ve therefore decided to lay the title bets I made pre-season on Hamilton and Button. I’m now evens if neither win and ahead if either do, but by about half the margin I would’ve been otherwise.
Sauber ran high fuel at the end of P3, which may suggest they’re actually very confident. Perez was faster on the hard tyre than some teams on the soft tyre, which is impressive. Not much use for qualifying, probably, but could prove useful for the race. He was lapping at around the same pace (same tyre/fuel roughly) as Rosberg.
I put £2 on Kobayashi to be top 3 in qualifying at 25, but his odds have more than halved since then.
So, it’s hard to predict but should be another thrilling qualifying session.