Hamilton, Heartbreak, Hangar Straight – British GP Qualifying
The rain of FP1 is gone, and it looked to be a beautiful day at Silverstone for the qualifying sessions of tomorrows British Grand Prix. The saying goes “F1 comes home to Monaco”, but in reality they should substitute “Silverstone”. Nearly all of the current Formula 1 teams base their efforts in the surrounding countryside of the British midlands. Whether its Red Bull of Milton Keynes, Lotus in Enstone, or McLaren in Woking. Needless to say, spare parts aren’t far for most, especially if you’re Force India – they’re right across the street.
Thankfully it was an incident free day of qualifying, other than a severe tire blowout from Sergio Perez’ McLaren. Felipe Massa’s Ferrari was back on the track following his nosedive into a barrier during FP2, however the Brazilian made very little impact upon elimination in Q2 at the 12th spot. Massa’s teammate Fernando Alonso did only slightly better, edging out elimination and finishing 10th in Q3. Alonso was displeased with the Ferrari performance on Saturday, “10th and 12th are not the results we want. Obviously we can only improve tomorrow, we must do it.” Ferrari however were using the hard compound on Alonso’s car, perhaps showing their hand at a tire strategy for tomorrow.
—News is currently breaking regarding a post-qualifying penalty. Force India’s Paul di Resta will be awarded a grid penalty due to his car failing the current minimum weight requirement. The VJM06 weighed 1.5kg under the minimum weight of 642kg. This is a huge blow to the young Scottish driver who pulled off an astonishing 5th spot during Q3 today. This turn of fate is not so surprising when you look at di Resta’s past few races in which team action hasn’t been nearly quick enough. In Canada, di Resta was one of the fastest in practice, but negligence in the pits meant he was released into qualifying too late, and subsequently eliminated in Q1. He worked wonders, making his way from 17th all the way to 7th, but obviously not an ideal scenario. Force India is given two options: either start at the back of the grid, or adapt the car and start from the pit lane.—
Lewis Hamilton takes pole position, and Mercedes once again dominated their 5th qualifying session of the year (a first of the season for Hamilton). The fans came out in droves to support the homegrown hero in his first year at Mercedes. This year’s atypical pole sitter, Nico Rosberg, settles for 2nd on the grid, locking out the front row for Ross Brawn and his Mercedes crew. Both Red Bull’s were pushed back to Row 2: Sebastian Vettel a staggering 0.6 seconds off of pole, Mark Webber right behind him. Webber has won this race twice (2010 and 2012), neither of those times from pole position. Wishful thinking? You bet.
Rows 3 and 4 get real interesting. Paul di Resta would have filled out the 5th spot behind Webber, but instead all the following drivers now move up one slot. Australian Daniel Ricciardo will follow his compatriot in 5th, with Force India’s Adrian Sutil behind him. Ricciardo is now competing for the coveted #2 spot to be vacated by Webber at the end of the season, so this show of speed will definitely help his chances (if Kimi Raikkonen isn’t already signed…). Speaking of Kimi, he and fellow teammate Romain Grosjean fill out the 4th row for Lotus. Grosjean out-qualified Raikkonen for the 7th spot. Jenson Button, who narrowly missed Q3, will move up one spot in his McLaren to the 10th spot behind Alonso.
Tire strategy will be very crucial tomorrow due to fast corners like Maggotts and Becketts, as well as the outright speed on the Hangar Straight. Ferrari looks to maximize the harder compounds for longer, while presumably frontrunners Mercedes and Red Bull will make a two stop (soft, hard, hard).
Many questions surround Sunday’s race. Have Mercedes mastered their tire wear? Will McLaren finally make a change to this nightmarish season? Is the Ferrari that far off the pace? Why are Will Buxton’s (of NBC Sports) pants so colorful?
Race starts at 7:30am EST on CNBC. See you there.