It’s been three weeks since the last race, and teams will’ve been doing all they can to upgrade their cars (with the possible exception of Force India, who have a B-spec car coming sometime during the European leg of the season, perhaps after Austria). McLaren will be desperate to keep making up ground, although that’s largely an engine issue, and Ferrari/Mercedes will both want to have the fastest car on the grid.
Tyre compounds are hard and medium.
Worth mentioning Spain’s circuit is tricky to overtake on, and generally not very exciting. So, much passing will be in the pit stops due to strategy. That said, a Mercedes behind almost any other car (barring Ferrari and Williams) will probably have a shot of muscling its way through, especially if Hamilton’s driving. Starting position and strategy will be at a premium.
In P1 Rosberg was seven-hundredths ahead of Hamilton, who was almost a second ahead of Vettel (himself barely three-hundredths faster than Raikkonen). Three-tenths further back was Sainz, then we had Verstappen, Kvyat, Massa, Ricciardo and Nasr.
P2 was rather different, with Hamilton four-tenths up on Vettel, who was the same margin ahead of Rosberg. Raikkonen was a tenth down the road, and followed by Kvyat, Verstappen, Button, Bottas, Sainz, and Massa.
At this stage, it looks pretty good for Toro Rosso. Button being top 10 is a little surprising.
In P3 commentary it emerged that the Honda engine was able to use more power than previously, which obviously helps. How much remains to be seen.
Pirelli tweeted a two stop race is expected. The option tyre is about 1.6s faster than the prime, apparently. Also worth recalling there’s the longest run to turn 1 of any circuit, so the start has plenty of scope to lose or gain places. Red Bull have suffered more engine reliability problems, which may hamper them in the race as well.
P3’s results were a bit unexpected. Rosberg was fastest, a tenth up on Vettel, who was a tenth up on Hamilton. Bottas was a little further back. Then we had Raikkonen [whose car had a wrong setting], Ricciardo, Massa, Verstappen, Kvyat and Sainz.
Hamilton screwed up his final sector, which is where the Mercedes has the advantage over the Ferrari. I still expect him to get pole.
Bets that sprung to mind were:
Alonso/Button for Q3
Vettel top 3
Alonso’s odds for Q3 were just 2.1, Button likewise. It’s possible but those odds are too short.
Verstappen was 1.5, and Kvyat 1.35. Given possible McLaren resurgence and Renault issues, even less tempting than the above.
Hamilton’s just 1.54 for pole. I think him likeliest to get it, but he cocked up his simulation and Rosberg’s been ahead of him in two out of three practice sessions. Frankly, Rosberg at 3.35 may be the better bet.
None of the qualifying odds tempt me, so no tip.
The pre-race piece may go up after the BBC highlights, so it could appear in the evening rather than afternoon (and that gives more time for the markets to get going).