Lewis Hamilton did the best job of the cars at the front of the field today, with a lap which was two tenths of a second faster than the man in second place, Sebastian Vettel, despite carrying an extra fuel weight penalty of over three tenths, so he was net half a second faster.
Of course we never got to see what Vettel would have done on his second run because Barrichello hit the wall and the session was stopped prematurely.
With all the intricate detail recently about how Renault fixed the result of last year’s race, the subject of safety cars is right at the front of everyone’s minds. We’ve had three accidents so far which have brought out the red flag and if they happened in the race, they would no doubt bring out a safety car. The big unknown is when?
Interestingly right at the back of the grid Tonio Liuzzi is hoping that lightening will strike twice and there will be an early accident – even when it isn’t premeditated -and he has followed what Alonso did last year with an early pit stop, on lap 17. I can’t really see the advantage of that as even if there is a safety car immediately after his stop, he still has plenty of cars in front of him who will be staying out for another ten laps or so, which means that they will be unlikely to pit under the safety car.
At the front everyone has tried to strike a balance between being aggressive for a good grid slot and at the same time having some spare capacity in case of an early safety car. It’s interesting that the teams are much closer together on strategy than they normally are.
Hamilton will go the longest of the front group, but I like the look of Rosberg this weekend. He finished second here last year and the Williams seems to be very fast. Strategy wise he is at a disadvantage to Hamilton, who will be able to look how much fuel his rivals go for and tailor his middle stint length accordingly, but I think Rosberg might fight him for the win and looking at Vettel’s long run pace I think he will too.
It’s Hamilton’s race to lose, but you never know on a street circuit…
Car Weight First stop
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 660.5 Lap 19
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 651.0 Lap 15/16
3. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 657.5 Lap 18
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault 654.5 Lap 16/17
5. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 655.5 Lap 17
6. Alonso Renault 658.0 Lap 18
7. Glock Toyota 660.5 Lap 19
8. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 650.0 Lap 14/15
9. Kubica BMW-Sauber 664.0 Lap 22
10. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 664.5 Lap 22
11. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 680.7 Lap 27
12. Button Brawn-Mercedes 683.0 Lap 28/29
13. Raikkonen Ferrari 680.5 Lap 27
14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 678.0 Lap 26
15. Trulli Toyota 690.9 Lap 30
16. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 693.0 Lap 31
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 683.5 Lap 28
18. Fisichella Ferrari 678.5 Lap 25/26
19. Grosjean Renault 683.0 Lap 28/29
20. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 656.0 Lap 17