Saturday, 7 June 2014

Canada: pre-qualifying

Rather stupidly, I managed to miss all of the first two practice sessions. I blame Alistair and Morrigan for this.

The tyres for this weekend are soft and supersoft. The soft tyres will be used at three out of four of the forthcoming races, so how well a car works with those tyres will play a significant role in determining their immediate term performance.

In P1 Alonso was sixteen-thousandths of a second ahead of Hamilton, who was a tenth and a half ahead of Rosberg. Vettel was the lion's share of a second behind, followed by Bottas, Ricciardo, Button, Magnussen, Raikkonen and Vergne.

In P2 Hamilton was fastest, with an almost identical gap to Rosberg as in P1. Vettel was three-tenths back, followed by Alonso and Raikkonen, with Massa, Bottas, Magnussen, Button and Vergne rounding out the top 10.

At this stage it looks like Hamilton has a consistent but slender advantage over Rosberg. More interesting is the seeming leap in performance Ferrari has made relative to Red Bull. The Prancing Horse has been upgraded, but in recent times Ferrari's upgrades often seem to make the car worse, so this may be a pleasant surprise for the team. Williams seems a shade ahead of McLaren.

Force India are surprisingly nowhere. Of course, practice can be a time for sandbagging, but the Force India wasn't updated in Monaco, when most cars were, and hasn't been here. They may be in Austria (next race), but it could be as late as Silverstone before the car's upgraded. Bit surprised by that, as Force India has been surprisingly good at keeping their car competitive throughout a season for a midfield team. They do have the advantage of two good drivers, though.

P3 had Hamilton fastest, but Massa split the Mercedes to be second quickest. Rosberg was next, then Alonso, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Kvyat, Vergne and Vettel. Once again the Force Indias were just outside the top 10, and McLaren are looking rather ropey (Lotus also appear to have gone backwards, whereas Sauber have merely maintained their dire form).

Weirdly, the Mercedes was fastest on its soft tyre. Bit odd, could be sandbagging, or it could be that the Mercedes is great on the softs and a bit worse on the supersofts.

Ferrari really do seem to have made a step forward, and the Williams are looking racier than I expected. However, Williams tend to go backwards in races, whereas Force India tend to go forwards, so we'll see how that works out. Unlike some 'modern' circuits, Canada has scope for plenty of overtaking.

Hamilton seems extremely likely to get pole. 1.38 is too short to tempt me, especially given Rosberg could spring a surprise and the Wall of Champions could prove a problem if Hamilton gets a bit over-excited.

There was over three-tenths of a second between Rosberg and Alonso (fourth in P3), and four-tenths between Massa (second) and Alonso. That's a sizeable gap. Unfortunately there was only a very small sum available at 3.5 for Massa to be top 3, and just over evens (given varying temperatures and potential mistakes) is not long enough.

I was also tempted by the notion of laying Vettel to reach Q3 (a cluster of 5-6 drivers were very near the cusp of the top 10) but evens is not attractive.

So, I expect a Hamilton pole, a very tight fight for second and third, and likewise to reach Q3. Will Williams live up to their potential? Will Force India reach Q3?

Not sure if the pre-race piece will be up this evening or tomorrow morning.

Morris Dancer

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