“We are going to be fighting each other a lot. But that’s what we’ve been doing for most of our lives and we’re pretty good at it”.
That was Jenson’s assumption during Saturday’s press conference. Lewis on the other hand might have been feeling a little guarded after being mugged off the start-line by Button a week earlier during the Australian Grand Prix. But whoever does come off second best might do well to play rear-gunner to divert a challenge from one Michael Schumacher.
With 600-odd metres of some of the widest road available on the Grand Prix calendar, Michael will have plenty of options available to snag at least one – if not two – McLaren’s before the first long right-hander. Even from there a game of bluff could ensue as “gunning-it” down the inside can leave you exposed on the outside of turn two. Opportunism and a cool head will win they day, something all three men have in spades.
Should however, the Merc breeze by the McLaren pair, expect plenty of consternation and nashing of teeth from rival teams concerning Mercedes F-Duct. Ross Brawn appears to be having none of it, telling his rivals to: “Bang a protest in on Thursday if you want to get it done, and leave the stewards to try and resolve the issue. Don’t do it after qualifying or the race and spoil the event.”
Behind the leading trio, the RB8’s of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel should have strong race pace. If Schumacher does indeed pass the McLaren pair, we could see a concatenation take place, enabling the RB8’s and indeed the Lotus of Romain Grosjean to run with the leading pack. All going well even Rosberg and Alonso may decide they’d like a slice of the action.
Webber has once again out-qualified his team-mate, although Vettel claims his switch to the hard tyre was decided upon very late in qualifying due to an inherent lack of grip. Whatever the reason, Vettel may opt for a two-stop strategy (as the medium compound will have its life shortened by starting on full tanks). If the track continues to become grippier he could be in the box seat.
Off the back of a storming drive inMelbourne, Raikonnen should again be a factor in the race. Despite copping a 5 place penalty for a gearbox change, Kimi still feature in the top ten, and with a Lotus fourth-fastest in the speed trap expect to see some fireworks from the rebounding Finn. So too from Grosjean, who was unlucky not to profit from the Lotus’s consistency last weekend.
Felipe Massa will again have his work cut out for him on Sunday afternoon. Starting 12th behind Pastor Maldanado, he will also have to call upon all his wits to pass the Williams, as its underperformance in qualifying will most likely not translate into the race.