It should be a very close qualifying session this afternoon, with a few different names up the front compared to recent races.
McLaren look more competitive here than at any stage this season and while this will not be enough of a step for them to challenge for the win on Sunday, I fancy that one of the cars could be in the top five or six.
Judging from free practice, McLaren has a car capable of getting into the top ten shootout and from there we could see them and/or others doing what Fernando Alonso did in China and running an aggressive strategy with quite a light fuel load to get up the front of the grid. Toyota could well be thinking about this too and maybe Alonso again.
You have a chance to take advantage of the field spreading out, so that when you make an early stop you come out into cars which are travelling pretty fast and do not hold you up. You will not finish, where you qualify but you do have a good chance of getting solid points, which might not be so clear if you were starting in the pack.
It works quite well as a tactic for the KERS cars, which are guaranteed a better start than the other cars around them as it is a very long run down to the first corner here and KERS cars will be able to pass non KERS cars on the way down there.
It is going to be tricky for Ferrari to get into the top ten, I reckon. From this weekend’s running so far I’d say the top ten shootout will feature the two Brawns, two Toyotas, two Red Bulls, a Williams, a Renault, a McLaren or two…so room will be tight for the two Ferrari drivers. To add to the pressure Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is travelling out to the race tomorrow. If Ferrari fail to score a point again it will be their worst ever start to a season.
Brawn has to be careful today in qualifying. The team has an advantage again, back to wheer it was in Australia probably, and so can afford to run a but more fuel in the final part of qualifying to have the best strategy for the race. Button and Barrichello both did a lot of laps this morning with a heavy fuel load and underlined their ability to keep the tyres working well over a long run. So in the race they are in great shape, but there is a risk that a few lighter cars will get in front of them on the grid.
Also watch out for the track improving a lot over the course of the three qualifying sessions, yesterday it was 1.2 secs faster in the afternoon than in the morning and you will see drivers doing a banker lap but then having to make it count on a second lap later in the session to be sure. If anyone gets thier timing wring there or makes a mistake, they will be out.
I watched the free practice session this morning out on track down at turn 10, the tricky downhill left hander and at turn 2/3, which is close by. A lot of drivers were locking up into turn 10, you’ll see Button doing it this afternoon, but it is very obvious standing there how good the Brawn car is at getting into and out of the slower and medium speed corners.