As predicted, qualifying was wetter than a mermaid in the shower, but I got almost all of my other forecasts wrong (just as well I didn’t offer a tip). It was also a staggeringly entertaining qualifying hour.
Q1 was the most interesting of the year by a mile. It was raining, so all went out on intermediate tyres, but towards the end it dried up. Caterham and Marussia bravely opted for the slicks, which looked like the wrong choice until the last lap or so which saw Van Der Garde, Bianchi and Chilton all make it to Q2 (Pic must feel a bit disappointed not to have joined them). Terrible day for both Toro Rosso and Williams, as all four of their cars fell at this first hurdle. Gutierrez will also be disappointed to only be 21 out of 22 cars.
Q2 was slightly less dramatic as it was, essentially, dry. The 3 intruders on Q2 all left at this stage, with Van Der Garde getting a good 14th. Hulkenberg, Sutil and Perez made up 11-13.
Q3 was a fantastic session. It started off raining, so 9 out of 10 drivers rushed to the track on slicks whilst it was still dry enough… only it wasn’t. That canny Scot Di Resta waited half a lap or so then went out on intermediates. All the other 9 pitted immediately for intermediates (more rain meant it was too wet for slicks) and by the time the second chap (Massa) went across the line Di Resta had made the most of the drier track and was 1.7s up the road. For almost the whole session it seemed he’d have his first pole (Force India also got pole here a while ago… maybe 2009, when Fisichella managed it).
But, there was a twist. Rosberg just pipped Di Resta’s time. Then, with only three drivers still eligible for a lap, (Webber, Vettel and Hamilton) the track suddenly started drying. Webber got provisional pole, then Vettel, and then Hamilton. Four in a row for the Briton, and Di Resta, although undoubtedly disappointed, will still start from a joint-career best of 5th.
Congrats to Swiss Bob, incidentally, who got just over £1 on Hamilton for pole at 360/1 in the dying moments of Q3. Although £1 is small, a 36,000% rate of return over about 3 minutes is not a displeasing thing.
Button will also be happy with 6th, whilst Grosjean and Raikkonen should be disappointed with 7th and 8th. However, not as annoyed as Alonso and Massa, who start 9th and 10th. That’s just not good enough.
In title terms this continues to reinforce the idea that Hamilton is Vettel’s closest rival, despite being 4th, behind Raikkonen and Alonso. However, Vettel’s 2nd is still a great place from which to start.
The weather forecasts suggest lighter rain is entirely possible (though not quite probable) tomorrow, and today perfectly illustrated just how difficult to predict and how changeable weather can be at the circuit.
It’s interesting to check the times (http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2013/904/). In Q2 Raikkonen and Alonso were very fast, and very close together. Alonso will benefit from rear gunner Massa, and Raikkonen from having his team mate right ahead (who will presumably move over to let the Finn through). On recent form I can’t see Di Resta staying in 5th. Button’s a little harder to call, though.
I did consider a few potential bets, but decided to back Hamilton for the win at 3.9, hedged at 1.5. He’s had four poles in a row, but in the three prior races only one once. So, why do I think he’ll win (or stands a good chance, at least)? In Hungary, he won, so that’s clear. At Silverstone, he was on for the win when his tyre came apart. Now, he may have won that or not, but he stood a realistic chance. In Germany, the sport was using the one-off interim tyres whilst Pirelli changed their compounds after the failures in the UK. So far it seems like Mercedes aren’t suffering especially with tyre wear.
On Pirelli, apparently Michelin have popped up and indicated (despite the very low amount of time left) they would be able to supply tyres in 2014.
Spa is always a cracking race, and tomorrow should be no exception. Let’s hope Hamilton enjoys a great victory.