Saturday, 26 October 2013

India: pre-qualifying

The compounds are medium and soft, 35-40 expected on the former, with a 2 stop expected by Pirelli (60 lap race). This was borne out by what I saw of the second practice session.

As was rumoured on Twitter, Lotus have now confirmed they’re looking at the talented Hulkenberg and the bank manager-pleasing Maldonado for their second seat (Grosjean’s confirmed for next year):

Both Grosjean and Boullier have said they’d prefer Hulkenberg, which is interesting. The decision clearly isn’t theirs, but they’re applying what public pressure they can. If the board went for Maldonado then it’d be clearly about the money, and there would be instant massive pressure on the Venezuelan.

Red Bull were 1-2 in P1, with Vettel the faster. Rosberg, Grosjean and Hamilton followed, after which came Button, Perez, Massa, Hulkenberg and Bottas.

In P2 we saw the same two at the top, but this time Grosjean was third. Then came Hamilton, Alonso, Rosberg, Massa, Raikkonen, Perez and Button.

Most teams struggled with the soft left front, but Lotus sounding confident of both pace and consistent times on it. Ferrari also seemed fairly consistent, but perhaps not quite fast enough.

Christian Horner, after P2, said there couldn’t be any more different tyres (one that lasts forever, one that doesn’t last for very long at all). That could mean there’s a significant divergence between qualifying and race pace, as qualifying will be done on the soft tyre but the medium tyre will be the weapon of choice on race day.

The soft tyres went through severe graining after just 3-4 laps, but then become more faster again (but will not last long after that). Strategy mistakes could lead to a car easily losing a lot of time.

As is traditional, I slept in and missed the first 20 minutes of P3. By helpful coincidence, the first 20 minutes of P3 were cancelled for strange reasons (visibility, I think, so presumably fog or smog).

Vettel and Webber yet again led the timesheets, followed by Alonso, Hulkenberg and Grosjean, then Massa, Di Resta, Rosberg, Button and Hamilton.

Vettel had an enormous advantage, half a second ahead of his team mate and almost eight-tenths ahead of Alonso. Some reckon this means he’ll switch to the medium tyre in qualifying, as he could still start around the second or third rows and have the better race tyre. I’m not sure, but if you think he’ll try it you could lay him for pole.

Hamilton could’ve had a better time, but got held up by Grosjean. However, he and Rosberg were very similar so I wouldn’t expect him to have been miles faster. In addition, Raikkonen was off the pace on the soft tyre (for qualifying and six and a half minutes of the race) but faster than everyone but the Red Bulls on the medium tyre. I would guess he’ll qualify circa 11th, start on the medium tyre and climb through the field significantly.

Hard to say if I’m just too sleepy (I really dislike the timing of the Indian Grand Prix and its subsidiary sessions) or if there’s no value, but nothing jumped out at me. Tempted a bit by Grosjean at 2.7 for top 3 in qualifying. However, Mercedes may be holding back (has happened before) and unless Vettel goes for the medium tyre (and maybe even then) it would seem Red Bull are likely to get two of the three top slots.

I may well wait until after the repeat of qualifying to put up a pre-race piece.

It’ll be particularly interesting to see how Alonso and Hulkenberg qualify.

Morris Dancer


  1. Google ate my comment!

    To paraphrase: is there any chance that the qualifying and/or race might get delayed or cancelled due to the smog, which stops the medical helicopter from operating?

    I can't see beyond a boring and unprofitable Vettel pole and win.

    And I reckon Maldanado will go to Lotus.

  2. I hope you're wrong about Maldonado. It's hard to call, alas.

    I had a comment eaten once; generally I copy before posting if it's a long one. Slight pain, but there we are.

    Nigh on impossible, I'd guess, for either to be cancelled. A delay (or potentially a red flag) could be possible. I think today saw the first smog-related delay and it's the third year of the event, so I think/hope it won't happen.

    Vettel is a very strong favourite, but the podium/top 6 market could be of more interest. I think Lotus could do pretty well. It may be that Vettel will get ignored by the TV cameras as he cruises to victory and we have a quite interesting battle for podium spots and points (that said, India isn't a great circuit. You wouldn't confuse it for Spa).