March 17, 2012
Oh, the difference a few months and one change to the technical regulations make. The RB8 is no RB7, that much is clear. What also appears to be clear is that no car leaned more heavily on the now-banned blown diffuser technology than that same RB7. Last year, it was common to see Seb Vettel on pole, and his teammate Mark Webber right alongside. Things have... changed. They've locked out the third row, which is hardly bad... it's just not what the Red Bullies have come to be used to.
But some things don't change, either. McLaren now perches on the front row, with Hamilton the only driver to get into the 1:24s. The session's biggest surprise is the man that sits third on the grid, Lotus's Lettuce Grosjean. The last time we saw him, he was stinkin' up the place in a Renault (now Lotus) in 2009. He won GP2 last year, so it's safe to say that he's gotten better... and so, it appears, has the car, at least potentially. Lettuce lines up next to Slappy Schumacher, who for most of the session held my bowels in an icy grip. The Silver Arrows of Mercedes are showing every sign of being legit competitors this season, and through Q1 and Q2 they were hanging out in the top few slots. It didn't come together for them in Q3 though, not that fourth is bad. I'm sure Rosberg is less than thrilled with his seventh. Eighth, ninth and tenth are held by a Williams(!), a Force India and a Toro Rosso, all of which is wonderful news that indicates a potential shakeup in the midpack.
The sharper-eyed of my readers may have noticed a lack of Ferrari so far in this Qualifying report. That's because the F2012 is proving to be a twitchy, snarling, uncooperative beast of a chassis with all the manners of a starving pitbull presented with a table full of porterhouses. Felipe Massa had to get onto soft tires just to make it out of Q1, and couldn't do any better than 16th and elimination in Q2. HWMNBN, on the other hand, had set a halfway acceptable lap in Q2 before he tried to apply the brakes with his left-side tires on the grass. The result was a snap spin and a sudden burial in the kittylitter. Despite this, his time was very nearly good enough to get him through to Q3, only being bumped to 12th in the final few seconds.
The other man missing from the report so far is Mumbles Raikkonen. In his first race back in F1, he could only manage a distant 18th. Still, the blame is not his alone. The team kept him on the hard tires for the entirety of Q1 while everybody around him had gone to the softs. Then, on his final flying lap, which was looking like it'd be good enough to get him into Q2, he made a mistake that put his entire car over the curb and required some quick steering action to keep him out of the wall and allow the Renault Lotus mechanics to keep their dinner reservations. On the other hand, he's probably the only driver on the grid with a full allotment of unused soft tires. We know the car can be quick (see Grosjean, Lettuce). We also know that nobody on the grid right now is as cold-blooded as Mumbles. Let's see if the combination of fast car, driving skill, and an extra set of soft tires will bring us another of his patented 18th-to-3rd races tomorrow.
Now for the bad stuff. For the second year in a row, both HRTs failed to meet the 107% qualifying requirement, and now have to plead their case to the stewards to be allowed to race. This is unlikely to be granted as they've not even come close to being on race pace this weekend. Unsurprising, really, considering the offseason they've had. When Colin Kolles left the team, it turns out he not only took his designs with him, he also took all the machinery used to make a F1 car with him as well. Seeing that he owned it all, that's only correct, but it did leave HRT in something of a bind. Not only did they have to design a car from scratch, but then they ALSO had to get the equipment needed to actually manufacture the parts for the chassis. No wonder they failed their crash tests. P1 was the first time they had actually gotten the chance to run the car!
Also, Kittylitter, Daniel Ricciardo and Pete Rose are all under investigation for impeding the progress of other drivers in Q1, and rumors up and down the pitlane are saying that Ferrari and Renault Lotus are going to protest the Mercedes "f-duct" rear wing. More on those stories if they happen.
We've got a good one shaping up here, folks... See you post-race for F1Update!
McLaren 1-2? It's just like old times again. Except that in old times Ferrari would have been 3-4.
I noticed the lack of Ferrari in the top bracket before you mentioned it. They must really have loused up their design this year. I bet it's been a hell of a long time since Ferrari wasn't a contender.
Of course, it's a long season and time will tell, but you gotta wonder.
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 17, 2012 03:02 PM (+rSRq)
They were still 4th in the constructor's championship, though. You need to go back to 1981 (5th) or 1980 (10th) to find a season they were worse.
Posted by: Wonderduck at March 17, 2012 03:38 PM (PHdMw)
I do think HRT needs to take a good long look at what they're doing. There's getting hung up in traffic, and getting hung up in HRT traffic, and the latter killed some hot laps for people who didn't end up doing well. I remember one of the Ferrari cars getting behind Narain and, well... if he was TRYING to block he could hardly have done a better job, hm? Seriously, they're a hazard to the other racers and they really shouldn't be allowed to race if they can't make the speed.
Posted by: Avatar_exADV at March 17, 2012 07:30 PM (pWQz4)
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at March 17, 2012 11:20 PM (+rSRq)
Powered by Minx 1.1.4-pink.