Spare a thought for Mark Webber. He is sitting in a car capable of winning this weekend and yet he starts the race from 18th on the grid because another driver, Adrian Sutil, blocked him on his hot lap in the first qualifying session. Not his fault and yet he loses out massively and the feeling here in Bahrain is that this is turning into a real problem, which could easily affect the world championship.
Last night the stewards penalised Sutil, who had weaved in front of Webber while warming his tyres for his own hot lap. He was dropped three places on the grid. But there is no mechanism for giving Webber back what he has lost. This is clearly unfair and needs to be addressed, because it’s going to happen more and more this season.
The reason is because Q1 is no longer a cruise for the fast cars. Everyone is on the limit to get through and almost everyone is having to use two sets of soft tyres just to be sure to get through. They are having to do two runs, so the track is very busy. And complicating things even more, because of the difference between the two types of tyre, which forces everyone to use the soft tyre for qualifying, we are seeing a variation in how it’s used, some drivers doing only one timed lap, some doing two. So drivers getting blocked is becoming more common.
It’s a bit like the safety car rules last year which unfairly penalised drivers forced to pit under a safety car caused by someone else’s accident. That rule was changed and something needs to be done to restore drivers who lose out in qualifying.
Fernando Alonso predicts that this is going to become a real talking point as the season goes on.
“It’s [getting through to Q2] more luck than anything else,” he says. “Traffic will always be a problem and you need to be lucky. Here especially we had some drivers doing two timed laps, some were doing only one timed lap and so you had a difference between them and you never knew what they were going to do until they come into the pits. It happened in China it happened here and I think it will happen a lot more in short circuits like Barcelona and Monaco. It will get very difficult in Q1.”
Webber was pretty sanguine about it. He hadn’t been having the best of days anyway and didn’t expect to match team mate Vettel,
“That’s motorsport, mate. It can happen, ” he said. “The good thing is we can bounce back from this, it;s a blip over the course of a long season, but these days it can happen. His [Sutil's] team did a poor job for him, he thought I was on an out lap and he tried to block me, but I’d been coming for 40 seconds.”