It was not in the form guide… If there was indeed a form guide going into qualifying . Certainly Hamilton’s McLaren enjoyed a three-tenth buffer over Mark Webber’s RB8 in FP3, but this was to be expected wasn’t it? The Red Bull always finding just that bit more in qualifying… Indeed, Mark Webber lamented a lack of KERS in Q3, but was that to account to the 0.7 second gap to the McLaren front row lockout of Lewis and Jenson respectively? Even more curious was Vettel’s performance. Accustomed to dusting himself off from a mishap, he seemed rattled after his off-track excursion at turn 6 in the last free practice. Whatever the minor issue with the RB8 is, Webber seems to be handling it just a bit better at present.
Neither could be said for both Ferrari drivers with Fernando Alonso getting completely out of shape at turn 1 whilst still chasing an acceptable balance. His demeanour after climbing from his cockpit akin to that of a conquistador. This left Felipe Massa with an early opportunity (to carry the Scuderia) that was never seized and was left languishing in 16th position. This is a Ferrari with such a small window of mediocre performance that Silvio Berlusconi would have trouble crawling through it. If there was any hint of doubt at Maranello, surely the jury have reached their verdict
Romain Grosjean backed up his 2nd fastest time in FP3 with an astounding 3rd grid slot for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. Romain undoubtedly feels right at home in the E20 and with a seemingly lower tyre degredation than the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher beside him, he may just have the perfect foil in the 7-time world champion should the Red Bulls one row behind decide to strike.
Schumacher truly asserted himself over Nico Rosberg for the first time in two seasons. A 2nd row slot for the man who overtook more cars than most in 2011 and should be noted by the McLaren pair in front of him. Whether Lotus’s protest over Mercedes ‘stalled’ front-wing is succesful may not be a concern at the moment, but Schumacher appeared to be making every attempt to conceal the rear of his Merc after entering the gravel trap in FP3.
Just what kind of “steering” issues Kimi Raikonnen (who qualified 17th) is facing is quite peculiar. His complaint of a lack of “feel”is exactly the same drama Jarno Trulli faced at ‘Team Lotus’ (now Caterham) last year. If Lotus cannot resolve this issue quicker than Caterham did with Trulli, we could see Raikonnen visiting a few ice-creameries come Belgium.
It was fantastic to see the Williams of Pastor Maldanado and the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg forcing their way into 8th and 9th respectively. Both are within striking distance of the Red Bull’s and could provide a major headache for the world champions should turn 1 provide any opportunistic moves. Torro-Rosso rookie, Jean-Eric Vergne was unlucky just to miss out on a spot in the top ten, but reaching the end of Q2 is nothing to be sniffed at. His slightly more experienced team-mate Daniel Ricciardo did however go one better and being the first Ferrari-powered car on the grid might lend a little more attention to his Italian passport… Unlikely though, for Ricciardo’s effort will go down in history as the day not one but two Australian drivers qualified in the top ten for a round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Webber might be grateful for some of the off-track heat Ricciardo has taken off him during his own Grand Prix, but Daniel’s own stella performance brings a heat of its own on track.