Rosberg on pole, eh? Don’t think many saw that coming. The last time he was on pole, we were all certain that he would fall back in the race, and we’re equally sure this time. Last time he won. Surely it won’t happen again…
It is to the Ferraris on the second row that all eyes turn after the performance on Friday. With the most likely opposition from the race runs starting on the fourth row, Ferrari must go in to the race as heavy favourites. The big unknowns are the race performance of the Red Bull – Vettel looks on again to maximise a difficult weekend, and quite what the Force Indias might manage. With penalties it looks like they’ll share the third row. They are definitely podium candidates. As for the pole sitter – I imagine that a top five finish would be considered a success.
It will be interesting to see if Raikkonen can make progress from his starting position (seventh after penalties I think). I would expect it, and it looks like two stop race will be possible for some cars. Certainly I’m expecting McLaren to try it again – with the other major candidates being Lotus and Force India. By my reckoning, a two stop race is worth about 5-10 seconds in race time over a three stop, depending on quite how large the degradation is. If the degradation is significantly less than Friday, and it usually is less, then a two stop race will be clearly faster if the tyres last.
The mediums appear to be worth a little over the hards – maybe about 0.2s per lap, and being able to run mediums rather than hards for a stint will be worth of the order of 3s, and new tyres instead of old about 5s. All these little bits can add up to quite a lot after 57 laps.
I’ll be very interested to see if Hamilton can make progress – because I wouldn’t expect him to get very far, and he is likely to have his hands full with McLarens and Toro Rossos. Based on Friday, Webber has a much better shout at forward progress, as does (depending on which Romain turns up) Grosjean. Hamilton will almost certainly be much faster than he was yesterday, but it probably won’t be enough.
So, all set for an interesting race. But probably for second…
Postscript: This is shorter than usual, mainly because I’m away with (real) work next week – so it will be Friday before any of the race analysis is posted.