Before qualifying it emerged that Charlie Whiting, race director, had spoken to the drivers saying they could go outside the white lines as the astroturf beyond would slow them down and therefore they wouldn’t get an advantage. Given the penalties Grosjean received for a great pass on Massa and Ricciardo received in Suzuka earlier in the season this seems a very inconsistent line to take.
Q1 threw up a major surprise. The pointless teams all went out, as did Maldonado, but, surprisingly, so did Grosjean. He went for the medium tyre and just failed to make it through. So, he’ll start 17th. That really shouldn’t’ve happened, and is a clear mistake. With the soft tyre (all save Vettel used it) he would’ve made it easily. Quite glad I didn’t back him to be top 3 now.
Q2 saw both Force Indias and Toro Rossos part ways with qualifying, with Gutierrez in 16th and Bottas 15th.
Q1 saw an extremely dominant Vettel pole. It’s possible he would have managed it even had he set it on the soft tyre. Hamilton and Rosberg followed, and although Webber was 4th he did set his time on the medium tyre. Massa, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg followed, with Alonso, Perez and Button all setting their qualifying time on the medium tyre.
After qualifying Hamilton joked about himself and Rosberg playing the team game and trying to set up a road block ahead of Vettel. Although the German clearly has the fastest driver/car combination, the Mercedes can be very swift off the line, and it is possible they could both (or one of them) get the jump on Vettel. It’s hard to overtake in India.
I don’t think Alonso, or the McLarens, will benefit all that much from their strategic effort, as they’ve lost grid positions to many other cars and those immediately behind them (Ricciardo and the Force Indias) will almost certainly try the same thing.
Webber could be another bag of monkeys. Vettel and the Mercedes may well come out into traffic. If they can’t get something like 10 laps plus out of the soft tyres then they could end up behind the likes of Alonso and the McLarens (or more medium tyre cars). That would allow Webber to drive around in clear air whilst his rivals lose performance. There’s also the possibility that the Mercedes will get past Vettel off the line and keep him behind them, preventing him getting far ahead of Webber.
So, I think Webber will be Vettel’s chief rival tomorrow (I’d highlighted him for the win or a podium, and was pleased when Eddie Jordan, after the repeat of qualifying, made a similar suggestion).
I’ve backed Webber at 6 to win, hedged at 2.5. There’s a massive divergence between Ladbrokes (3.5) and the Betfair odds. Whilst Vettel is the favourite, I think 6 is too long for Webber.
In addition, it’ll be interesting to see how Grosjean (out of position in 17th) manages to do.
The race starts at the odd time of 9.30am.