Sutil was fastest in two of the three practice sessions, which could bode well for Force India. (Hamilton was fastest in the first.)
Fisichella seems to be struggling in the Ferrari whereas Liuzzi appears far more comfortable in the Force India car.
Weather for qualifying is fine and dry: air 26°C, track 40°C, wind 0.7m/s, humidity 33%
However, a thunderstorm last night has washed away the rubber so the track won’t be as quick to start with.
As at Spa, the tyre choices are Bridgestone’s medium and soft compounds (officially called prime and option respectively).
Qualifying session 1 (Q1):
GF is first on track – he’s still getting used to the Ferrari
(Fastest time in practice was Sutil’s 1:23.336)
5mins in to Q1 = 15mins left; LH, HK, FA & SV yet to leave the pits
Still no sign of LH – is there a problem in the McLaren garage?
KR 1:23.610 on the prime tyre
LH now on track – that means all 20 cars are at there together
10mins gone = half way through Q1
On board with LH – looks nice and smooth
GF is down in P14 – an Italian driver in an Italian car at the Italian Grand Prix, so no pressure!
MW throws up the dirt – the Red Bull’s tail steps out as he exits the chicane
5mins left of Q1
Only FA in the pits – they all need to put in fast laps if they want to get through to Q2
3mins left; bottom 5 are NR, JT, SB, MW, JA – MW is having a terrible weekend
MW jumps to P9
LH on a slow lap; causes SB to take to the escape road in the chicane; will LH be penalised?
1min left; bottom 5 are RG, NR, JT, SB, JA
Chequered flag falls but they can finish the current lap
KN gets it wrong into the chicane and slithers across the kerbs
RG to P13, pushing KN down
JT up to P14, relegating TG
So the back of the grid will be P16=TG, 17=KN, 18=NR, 19=SB, 20=JA*.
*JA already has a 5 grid spot penalty for a gearbox change but that’s not going to affect his P20 spot
GF was in P12, 0.6secs slower than his teammate who headed the timing chart
Qualifying 2 (Q2):
The Brawns are first on track: JB followed by RB
All 15 cars are on track as JB starts his first flying lap
JB 1:24.623 but he clearly backed off on that lap
5mins gone = 10mins left in Q2
NH pulls off track as his engine gives up … and that was a new engine for this weekend
RB 1:22.976 – he’s the first to duck under 1:23
Halfway through Q2
JB in the pits for new tyres – he’ll swap from the prime to the softer option compound
RK pulls off track too – that’s both BMW Sauber cars out of Q2
5mins left; bottom 5 are RG, RK, VL, NH, GF (although RK & NH will obviously drop to P14 & 15)
Replay of pit-car radio for RK confirms it was an engine problem for him too
90secs left = final flying laps
(GF can only bump the Ferrari up to P13)
1min left; bottom 5 are RG, RK, GF, VL, NH
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are RG, RK, VL, GF, NH
VL P5! That relegates JT
Replay shows RG getting the Renault a bit sideways through Lesmos but he did well to keep it out the gravel
Middle of the pack: P11=JT, 12=RG, 13=RK, 14=GF, 15=NH
That means Fisichella will start behind both Force India cars … both of them are through to Q3
Qualifying 3 (Q3):
Battling for the top 10 positions are JB, LH, RB, AS, VL, MW, KR, FA, HK & SV
LH and KR are first on track
BBC watched McLaren fuel their cars for Q3 – apparently the hose was connected to HK’s car much longer than LH’s, so maybe HK is on a 1-stop strategy?
KR 1:25.586 on the softer tyre
FA pits without setting a time
5mins gone = halfway through Q3; only 3 people have set lap times so far
Pit stops for new tyres
2mins left; order is LH, KR, AS, HK, MW, FA, RB, SV, VL, JB
Chequered flag falls to end Q3
Wow! AS in P2 for Force India – that’s got to sting GF, even if AS is lightly fuelled
Front of the grid: P1=LH, 2=AS, 3=KR, 4=HK, 5=RB, 6=JB, 7=VL, 8=FA, 9=SV, 10=MW
That means 6 of the top 7 cars are Mercedes powered!
There’s 2 KERS cars behind AS so he’s going to have trouble holding on to P2 into the chicane
Provisional grid: LH, AS, KR, HK, RB, JB, VL, FA, SV, MW, JT, RG, RK, GF, NH, TG, KN, NR, SB, JA*.
(*JA has a 5 grid spot penalty for a gearbox change but qualified in P20.)
Note I always say provisional grid – there’s always the chance it’ll change before the race, because of engine changes or the stewards penalising drivers … and the one potential change is for LH – I wonder if they’ll penalise him for “blocking” SB in Q1?