Early weather forecasts suggested it could be 40C on race day. One imagines Mercedes were not pleased with such news.
Mr. Jessop, on politicalbetting.com, suggested that this could lead to top teams dialling down pace in an effort to allow brakes and engines to survive the race. Teams that don’t do this could be faster in qualifying, but that’s no use if the cars subsequently fail in the race.
Here’s what Paul Hembery of Pirelli had to say about the tyres (http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2013/7/14817.html):
“With levels of lateral energy relatively low, tyre performance rather than durability will be the limiting factor and this will form the basis of the strategy selected – with the teams aiming to keep the tyres within the peak window of operating performance for as long as possible. The design of our latest tyres should help them to do this.”
Speaking of Pirelli, they’ve announced their tyres for Spa, Monza and Singapore (I reckon Mercedes could do pretty well at the last circuit): http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/motorsport/story/117765.html
Anyway, to practice.
P1 had a Red Bull one-two at the top, with Vettel fastest. Raikkonen was third and Alonso fourth (that top 4 would make for an intriguing race). Grosjean, Button, Sutil, Rosberg, Perez and Maldonado rounded out the top 10.
In P2 Vettel and Webber again topped the timesheets, followed by Grosjean, Alonso, Massa, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Button and Sutil. I didn’t listen to much commentary for either session but I did hear that Ferrari were apparently suffering poor durability on the soft tyre.
During P3 commentary an interesting variance in strategy was reported. Ferrari are willing to compromise race pace for grid position because they’ve been starting too far back, whereas Red Bull are focusing entirely on the race. Williams were apparently quite upbeat, so hopefully they’ll have a more competitive weekend than his recently been the case. McLaren seem a little better too. Hamilton seemed happy, Rosberg less so, and both Webber and Raikkonen seemed worried about the rear of their cars (although Webber’s engineers seemed more confident). From Friday to Saturday Hamilton gained a huge chunk of speed, so perhaps they’ll do better than expected. However, the circuit’s rarely used so I expect much of that is due to the circuit improving as rubber gets laid down (Perez also gained much speed).
The qualifying simulation at the end of P3 was curtailed by a minute and a half when Perez introduced his car to the barriers at some speed. Grosjean was fastest, followed by Alonso, Perez, Vettel, Massa, Hamilton, Webber, Rosberg, Button and Sutil.
For the race, the pit lane speed limit has declined from 100kmh to 80kmh. Naturally, this will mean pit stops take a little longer, and give a small advantage to teams that need fewer stops.
Some do wonder how well the medium tyre will hold up, not regarding track degradation but thermal degradation. If they don’t last long there could be a huge number of pit stops. I suspect they’ll be more or less alright.
Anyway, qualifying should be interesting. As well as the Red Bull/Mercedes fight, we may see Ferrari being more competitive than usual and Lotus seem very good as well. Grosjean’s been good this weekend (the commentators were waxing lyrical about him) and although Raikkonen hasn’t really put a qualifying style lap together yet he is undoubtedly very fast. The Red Bulls were frankly slow in P3, but that was entirely sandbagging, in my view, making it hard to read how the qualifying will go.
I was hoping that Grosjean to be top 3 would have reasonable odds, but 2.5 is too short. So, the best value was for him to get pole at 10, hedged at 4. Whilst I do believe the Red Bulls were sandbagging in P3, Grosjean was a tenth and a half off in P2 and extended his lead (from P2 to P3) over Alonso from nine thousandths of a second to a tenth and a half.
Qualifying should be rather interesting. Let’s hope it’s rather profitable too.