It is the greatest likelihood that there will be two Red Bulls and one Ferrari in the top three spots on the grid.
However, it’s a strange and unnaturally changing lap, long, slow, and difficult to get a good rythme on, and most relevant here, it is difficult to get it all right!
So, with the top ten inside 1 second, variability is to be expected. This is a chance for a great second times lap in Q3 could get you a pole, way over your head, and an otherwise minor mistake, even for a driver on one of the top teams, can mean five grid spots back!
Still the most likely top three are Sebastian Vettel in P1, a coin toss between Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber in P2, and the other in P3.
But who’s going to break up the party? Jenson has been up lately; he was very good last week in Japan, at Suzuka; he’s got to be the favourite for spoiler. While he is a flighty driver, he is trending upwards lately, and a P1 is not out of the question for Button; go for it!
Mercedes are showing improved performance, and I don’t think it is because this type of circuit particularly favours their package. Michael P6 and then P7 in FP2; I have to admit, though not the biggest fan of Michael, it’s good to see. He has a lot of damage control, if he was the only one to get a perfect lap, he could get P1; but he’s an outside chance, to say the least.
Massa has been trending upwards, though he ended short of Fernando, 4th and then 6th in FP2, he was as strong as he’s been in over a season in Japan, and he’s is a stronger shot than Schumacher to get pole and score high in qualifying; I’d love to see Filipe ahead of Alonso in qualifying! Go Fillipe, go!
I hope to see Lotus tweek their new updates so that it makes them competitive with Red Bull, but I’ll not hold my breath on that one. Lotus are truly foundering in this year’s campaign. Are they playing the long game and aiming to peak in 2013? That’s what it looks like from here!
Yet, an outside chance of fruition.
Sauber, not liking it, not one bit. But maybe they can find something to get in the game, or perhaps a radical tire strategy, one stop?
Williams, foundering, listing badly and taking on water. They need new drivers. (I like Senna, but…)
McLaren, is definitely off the pace since Japan. While still fundamentally sound, it just isn’t the fastest overall package and stares at the brink (maybe past it) of being the third fastest, at the moment.
The picture seems pretty expectable, but due to the funky, unnaturally assembled mix of straights and funky corners, getting the perfect lap will be hard, and making a mistake, easy; so there are bound to be surprises, and two things that won’t be too surprising is 1. a safety car in the race; and 2. not too many passes; so put that in your pipe and smoke it to figure out potential strategies, and relative importance of qualifying high on the grid, or not?