Everyone is talking about the start of this afternoon’s Grand Prix and how decisive it will be to the outcome of the race. There is even a sweepstake on what position Hulkenberg will be in at the end of lap one.
Mark Webber is not in an ideal position, behind Hulkenberg on the outside of the track, while Vettel and Hamilton will be making tracks down the inside into turn one. From a championship point of view both of them need a big score today so they will feel they have nothing to lose from attacking at the start. Webber and Alonso, who starts behind him, have more to lose.
The projections are that if the start is normal with no incidents then Hulkenberg will be fighting Kubica for fifth place. His race pace is about 1.2 secs slower than Red Bull and 0.9s slower than Ferrari and McLaren.
For me the key potential battle is Hamilton against Alonso for third place behind the Red Bulls. After making a mistake in Korea, Hamilton will not want to let Alonso through here and McLaren feel they have the speed to beat the Ferrari.
Williams’ launch record is not particularly good this season and the start is made more tricky by being uphill for the first ten or so cars. This means holding the car on the brake while feeding out the clutch.
If you want to know more about how the driver controls the bite point on the clutch at the starts, here’s a video I made earlier this year with Lotus examining the steering wheel in detail.