A very exciting qualifying session today, with some stellar performances.
Despite losing time with problems with driveshafts in morning practice Red Bull came up trumps in qualifying, Sebastien Vettel took his second career pole position, the first for Red Bull, ahead of Renault’s Fernando Alonso. Vettel’s Red Bull team mate Mark Webber made it a clear sweep of Renault engined cars in the top three.
The other Renault of Nelson Piquet was 17th and, although he didn’t have the new parts on his car you wonder how much longer Renault will persist with him after another indifferent start to a season.
The Brawns wound up fourth and fifth. Jenson, outqualified by his team mate for the first time this season. The margin between Vettel Button was 4/10ths in Q2 when both were running light and the margin was the same in Q3 when they had fuel on board.
I was very impressed with Alonso and Vettel. The cream always rises to the top and both of them got the business done in difficult circumstances. The won out because they are both adaptable, a quality which I’ve always believed is a hallmark of a champion. Michael Schumacher had it in spades, while plenty of drivers who are very quick can’t cope with sudden changes or limited opportunities.
In Vettel’s case he was dealing with the latter scenario, he gave himself very few laps to get the job done, which saved him extra sets of tyres but in the process he put a lot of pressure on himself. He played it cool in every session, only doing one run. He did 11 laps in total in qualifying, 12 less than Nico Rosberg!! In the final session, when the cars carry race fuel, he didn’t have that settling first run, he just went for it on one lap and got pole. That is very impressive and shows his mental strength as well as astonishing feel for the car.
Alonso had to adapt to virtually a new car, Renault had fitted new parts to the car, including a double decker diffuser and so the car will have felt very different today. Alonso not only mastered it, he managed to squeeze all the extra performance our of the new parts. He’s so clever, he knows all the tricks and shortcuts, a brilliantly savvy racer.
Although their result owes something to running an aggressive strategy, because it looks like they are planning a short first stint on the soft tyres in the race, this performance has been coming for some time.
In a week when the talk in F1 has been all about the double decker diffusers, it is ironic that only one of the top three cars had one and that was fitted at the 11th hour to the Renault!