The first section of qualifying has become tiresome since with seven cars to be knocked out, obviously (at least in dry circumstances) six of them will be the new teams’ drivers. It is hence twenty minutes to work out which one of the other eighteen drivers will not make it through. I think I would favour only sixteen allowed into Q2. This would also make Q2 less congested and easier to follow. It would be fun to have devil-take-the-hindmost qualifying whereby it is a one hour session, and after fifteen minutes the slowest car is excluded, then another car knocked out every two minutes. Then with five minutes to go, the last four cars would have time for one last run.
“Who needs ride height adjustment?”, we all heard Red Bull’s Christian Horner exclaim over the radio after Vettel put himself on pole. I was also amused by Sebastian Vettel joking about a big lever in the cockpit. The latest clarification by FIA does not rule out Red Bull having some way of raising the ride-height between qualification and the race. (Teams gain performance by running the cars as low as possible to the ground. Too low and the car will bottom out on bumps potentially lifting wheels off the ground so they go as low as they dare. The ride-height will sink a bit when they put in all the fuel for the race and they are prohibited from adjusting the ride-height between qualifying and the race. This means they have to run the cars in qualification slightly higher than they would like, so it will not be too low when they plonk in the fuel for the race.) This article on ScarbsF1’s Blog describes ways in which Red Bull might be getting around this. The most interesting, which might detour around the regulations, is the use of highly chilled gas in the anti-roll-bar damper. For those that remember Boyle’s Law from school, this will cause the gas to lower in pressure sucking in the damper which will lower the ride-height. Overnight, the Red Bulls will sit in the garage watched over by FIA’s closed-circuit security cameras and the gas will warm up to ambient temperatures raising the ride-height for the race! It might even be feasible the team have remotely controlled heaters to boost the temperatures in the garage if felt necessary. It is a cute theory and obviously only conjecture but if true, it would explain why their cars seem to have a qualification advantage that they do not seem to match in race-pace. On the other hand, Mark Webber had a big reputation as a one-lap specialist before Vettel showed he was even better so perhaps they are just both phenomenally good qualifiers. However, I have a suspicion that Horner’s outburst and Vettel’s joke are in the nature of a smokescreen and the chilled gas theory might explain how they are doing it outside the regulations.
McLaren’s one-two is their 45th, their first being at Canada’s Circuit Mont-Tremblant in 1968 when Denny Hulme won followed by team-founder Bruce McLaren (also the only one-two for New Zealand drivers). It is the eighteenth 1-2 for McLaren-Mercedes, the last being Italy 2007 when Fernando Alonso led Lewis Hamilton. Of the five one-twos Hamilton has been in for McLaren, he only won one at the 2007 USA GP.
The first British one-two was sort of Monaco 1956 when Stirling Moss won in a Maserati, with a shared drive for second after Brit Peter Collins handed over his Lancia-Ferrari to team-leader, Juan Manuel Fangio (Argentina), with an identical description for the top two at Monza that season. The first full British one-two was on the old 8·7 mile Spa circuit at the 1958 Belgium GP. Indeed it was the first 1-2-3-4 by any nation with winner Tony Brooks (Vanwall) followed by Mike Hawthorn (Ferrari), Stuart Lewis-Evans (Vanwall) and Cliff Allison (Lotus-Climax). The last British one-two before Button-Hamilton was Austria 1999 when Eddie Irvine won for Ferrari in front of David Coulthard’s McLaren-Mercedes. There have been forty British 1-2s including the two split-nationality shared drives. The last national 1-2 before China 2010 was for Germany at Suzuka in Japan in 2004 which Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) won over brother Ralf’s Williams-BMW.
Vitaly Petrov’s seventh placed finish for Renault is the first F1 points finish for a Russian driver. He is being compared favourably to Nelson Piquet Junior and Romain Grosjean, but not having Flavio Briatori there to threaten and psychologically undermine the rookie number two at critical times possibly might help; call it a hunch.
Whilst in recent years the stewards have seemed too interfering to the flow of racing, this season it is looking to be as if anything goes. I plan a separate post on this.