Today in qualifying we saw an intense moment in Q2 which is worth taking a moment to consider.
So close was the front end of the field, with 1st to 11th separated by just over 2/10ths of a second, that several leading drivers, including Sebastian Vettel were forced to use an extra set of soft tyres to make sure they made it through into the Top Ten shootout. Ferrari didn’t do that and Fernando Alonso starts 11th, five rows back from his two main championship rivals. Felipe Massa lines up 13th.
All season long we have been hearing the message that this year it’s about consistency and as things get every tighter, this consistency has to be there at every crucial step. This weekend, Q2 was one such vital step.
After qualifying Alonso’s comment was telling, “It’s easy to say now that with two runs on Softs in Q2 we would have made the cut, but maybe now we would be here lamenting the fact that we did not have two for Q3,” he said. “It’s always easy to judge things after the fact. However, we were not quick enough to be in the top ten in the second part of qualifying and now the race will naturally be tougher. The podium is out of reach and clearly, with Hamilton on the front row, it’s easy to expect that we will lose ground to him.”
It’s all the more interesting as Alonso had spelled out quite clearly on Thursday that his mindset was that he was man-to-man marking Hamilton, aiming to finish ahead of him this weekend, but feeling that Vettel was likely to leave Valencia in the championship lead, so he would be targeting him at Silverstone.
Massa had a similar sentiment, “With hindsight, it’s easy to say that if we had used two sets of Soft in Q2, we could have made the cut, but we wanted to be in the best possible shape for Q3 and Q1 had shown that we were even quick on the Medium tyre.”
It’s a situation other title protagonists have found themselves in; Vettel has been forced to use up sets of qualifying tyres in Q2 a couple of times, failed to make the cut too and he recovered to score points, but not podiums. But it’s not been as close as today before.
Alonso and Ferrari gambled that 2/10ths would be close enough to get through, but with the Lotus and Force India cars in there as well as Maldonado and Kobayashi, it didn’t work out. And it was awkward that this happened on a day when Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had come to praise his team on their renaissance.