Saturday, 23 March 2013

Malaysian GP Qualifying: Everybody loves the sunshine

The qualifying in Malaysia started in predictably sunny and dry conditions, allowing the teams to set up the cars in a more optimum way to what they had to for qualifying in Australia. However, it wouldn't prove to be that way throughout the session.

Q1 was dry and, despite this, still managed to throw up a couple of surprises. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel both left it very late to secure their places in the second session of qualifying. They looked to be massively off the pace, whilst once again the Force India cars were looking extremely competitive, as were the Lotus cars. Sutil is really relishing the new found pace and performance in his Force India and is likely to be a cause for concern to the front runners again on Sunday. It'll only be a matter of time before Sutil is considered one of them, instead of just in amongst them...

The Red Bull drivers made it through to Q2, Sebastian Vettel by the skin of his teeth, and as Q2 got underway it became clear that something was worrying all of the teams. It was revealed that the reason all of the cars were out on track at the same time, and desperately trying to get a decent lap in, was that rain was on its way. It was inevitable that it would catch somebody out and that somebody was Paul Di Resta, who found himself pirouetting through the KLIA Curve. He didn't fair any better after that and ended up qualifying fifteenth. He and the team will have to work on an interesting strategy for the race.

Sebastian Vettel cut it close again, in Q2, and was lucky not to be a victim of the same fate as Di Resta. He was just outside the elimination zone and joined the other ten cars as they went out for the final session of qualifying, on intermediate tyres. As the cars completed lap after lap, the times got quicker and quicker on a drying track. Unbelievably, and probably to all of his rivals' dismay, Vettel managed to bag pole position. The two Ferrari's are hot on his heels again and it will just be a case of whether Seb can keep them behind him this time.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Surprise in Oz!

The Australian Grand Prix didn't provide much excitement and didn't really get the blood flowing. There was literally no contact between any of the cars, and the only incident was Pastor Maldonado spinning off in to the gravel on the first corner. There were a few retirements, however they were all due to technical issues and created little to no drama. It wasn't a boring race though and certainly threw up a few surprises.

One thing that wasn't a surprise however, was Mark Webber's terrible start, just like many of the races in 2012. He will have to do a lot to convince us that he hasn't started this season the way he means to go on. Driving exactly the same car as Vettel, he struggled for pace and appeared to be unable to undo the damage he did by being so sluggish off the line. Vettel didn't fair too well either. Despite starting from pole position and keeping the lead through the first few laps, he was unable to replicate the dominance from the front that we have grown so accustomed to in Formula One.

The Pirelli tyres, which it had been said were more durable and less prone to 'falling off the cliff' as last year, appeared to be a lot worse. They were lasting five or six laps before drivers were falling victim to their rivals without being able to put up much of a fight at all. Hamilton made a great effort at resisting a pass from Alonso in one of these situations, locking up both of his front tyres and holding the position. Frustratingly, the defense was never going to stick because Alonso popped his Ferrari on to Lewis' inside for the next corner and shot past easily. As the race went on, it grew more frustrating and more disappointing.

The surprises came in the shape of the Lotus cars and the Force India cars, whose pace was beyond what any of us expected. Sutil had a very competitive race and was in the front running pack for most the race, something that the race officials often failed to realise as misplaced blue flags waved time and time again, when Sutil was racing a Lotus or a McLaren. Raikonnen ran a sublime race and was a very worthy winner. It's nice to see the outspoken but lovable finn back at the top and arguably where he belongs. It wasn't a predictable result but it was a predictable path that led to it, in respect of tyre degradation and other teams' consistent pace through the grand prix. It has to get more exciting in Malaysia!