A lot of the teams this evening are talking about tomorrow’s race being one of those wet/dry, chaotic races with loads of pit stops as the conditions change.
I’m sure that Mark Webber would like a nice uncomplicated race, in the dry, so that he could convert his well-earned pole position and car advantage into a first GP victory. Meanwhile plenty of drivers with nothing to lose, like Lewis Hamilton, Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil will be going for it, taking risks and strategy gambles in the hope of nicking an unexpected win.
Sutil did an amazing job today, not just earning a place in the top ten for the first time, but also carrying a lot of fuel and still qualifying in seventh place, ahead of the Ferraris. Allowing for the weight of the fuel he is also quicker than Kovalainen in sixth place.
Sebastian Vettel is particularly concerned about the McLarens as they will have a big advantage at the start if it is dry, thanks to their KERS system.
Today was a day for cool heads and as I was sitting there in the post qualifying TV interviews with the top three drivers I was thinking that it is no coincidence that they have 589 Grand Prix starts between them. Experience combined with instinct are what give them the assurance to make the right choices at the right times. Rubens Barrichello was very sure footed, making a brave call for slicks in the second qualifying session when Jenson Button had just gone out on intermediates. He was dead right and Button quickly copied him and made it through to the top ten shoot out.
We’ve seen already this weekend how quickly the track dries out when the rain stops and how much faster the slicks are than the intermediates when that happens.
So it should be a really exciting race. The Brawn team has the lightest cars in the top ten and that is because they wanted to make darned sure that both their drivers were up at the front, out of trouble.
If you look at the table below you’ll see that Hamilton had a great run in qualifying today, faster than the Brawns when you allow for the extra weight of fuel he was carrying. McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh estimates that the new aerodynamic package which is only on Hamilton’s car this weekend, is worth around 7/10ths of a second per lap.
Fuel weights and pit stop predictions
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 661.0 Lap 21 2. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 647.0 Lap 15 3. Button Brawn-Mercedes 644.0 Lap 14 4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 661.0 Lap 21 5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 654.5 Lap 18 6. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 664.0 Lap 22 7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 678.5 Lap 28 8. Massa Ferrari 673.5 Lap 26 9. Raikkonen Ferrari 674.0 Lap 26 10. Piquet Renault 676.0 Lap 27 11. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 681.0* Lap 29 12. Alonso Renault 668.2* Lap 24 13. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 683.6* Lap 30 14. Trulli Toyota 683.7* Lap 30 15. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 689.6* Lap 32 16. Kubica BMW-Sauber 673.5* Lap 26 17. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 674.5* Lap 26 18. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes 662.5* Lap 21 19. Glock Toyota 662.3* Lap 21 20. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 689.5* Lap 32
* means the fuel load they have elected to run.
Glock has a three place grid penalty for blocking Alonso in Q1