Saturday, August 22, 2009

Barrichello in strong position as McLarens take front row

I have to admit that the word that rhymes with "duck" was being used with volume and frequency in this house at the end of F1 qualifying in Valencia this afternoon. I knew that it was going to be a long wait for the fuel weights to come out so that we could really see the lie of the land.

At the end of a thrilling final shoot out, the McLarens took the prime positions on the front row. It was Lewis Hamilton who emerged triumphant - Heikki Kovaleinen came close but had a wee mishap on the final corners of his last flying lap. Hamilton's fastest lap was in fact the first that he set in Q3. He then did an extra lap, which he didn't really need to do. However it transpired that the McLaren team had worked out that the track would get slower during the ten minutes of the session and while they did send him out for an "insurance" lap at the last possible minute, he aborted it because he didn't need to finish it. Rubens Barrichello, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button made up the top five.

It just shows the miniscule calculations and variables that are required in Formula One. Such attention to detail and strategy can make the difference when your currency is tenths, or even hundredths, of a second.

Today there was less than two seconds covering the entire grid. Well, there was less than half a second covering the first 19 cars, but Ferrari substitute Luca "Slower" Badoer was a second and a half off the pace and brings up the rear of the year. I really think that it wouldn't harm Ferrari to rethink their plans for the next few races. Team Principal Stefano Domenicali openly said that Badoer had been given the drive for his 10 years of loyal service as the Scuderia's test driver. In a way, that's quite charming that they were prepared to do that, but if I were Badoer I'd have been cringing with embarrassment at those comments. There are a pair of decent drivers, Sebastien Bourdais and Nelson Piquet with recent experience of F1 who would relish the chance of a Ferrari drive, I'm sure.

BBC commentator Martin Brundle again showed his sense of humour when he wryly wondered whether he should volunteer to drive for Ferrari at Spa next weekend - he reckoned he could drive and commentate and still be faster than Badoer. He's probably right.

Speaking of the BBC coverage, I wish I knew what goes through Eddie Jordan's head when he gets dressed in the morning. I've never come across a hotel room yet that doesn't have a mirror. He was wearing this purple shirt with flowers all over it. Did he lose a bet or something? Or maybe he forgot to bring a shirt and improvised with the hotel curtains.

New Renault driver Roman Grosjean qualified pretty much where Nelson Piquet was doing, making a bit of a mockery of Flavio's decision to fire the Brazilian.

Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella unfortunately didn't make it into Q2, by 0.17 of a second, but Adrian Sutil qualified in 11th. Unfortunately he didn't make Q3 but this is a big stop forward for the team.

As ever, the raw positions don't tell the whole story and we had to wait for the fuel weights to come out to assess who was the true pole sitter. Third placed Rubens Barrichello is almost 10kg heavier than Lewis and 7.5 kg heavier than Heikki so he has the definite advantage.

The start will be crucial. If he can get past Kovaleinen at the start, and keep pace with Hamilton, he will have the advantage and could win the race. If he's stuck behind Kovaleinen for the first 16 laps, with Kovaleinen not feeling any particular need to go particularly fast while Hamilton storms off into the distance, then the McLarens could take a 1-2.

It's equally possible that we could end up with two Brawns on the podium, with Rubens as the winner, which would be absolutely brilliant.

The relative consolation of all of this is that the Red Bulls have not been so competitive this weekend. Mark Webber, at second place in the Championship, is in 9th and Vettel, in 4th, is much lighter than Jenson in 5th so Jenson should get past him at least.

This could well end up being a thrilling race!

1 comment:

Richard Gadsden said...

I laughed (physically) out loud twice on this one, once at Brundle, and once at Jordan improvising a shirt from the curtains.

Missed the qualifying because I was working (yes, on a Saturday) but I feel like I watched it after reading that, so thank you very much Caron.

If you get a second Livi by-election, I'll find some time to pop up.


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