It feels a lot longer than three weeks since the Grand Prix of Bahrain. The first European race of the season means lots of upgrades for the cars, so it’ll be interesting to see whose changes result in the biggest improvement. McLaren have a new colour scheme (“graphite grey with day-glo orange highlights”) as well as a revised front wing and power-unit upgrades.
There are rumours that Alonso has an eye infection which may cause him to miss his home Grand Prix; this year he’s joined by countrymen SAI and MER.
Free Practice 1 (FP1) saw Susie Wolff on track for the first time; she ended FP1 in 14th place. ROS was fastest (1:26.828) ahead of HAM, VET and RAI.
FP2: HAM topped the times (1:26.852) followed by VET, ROS, RAI and KVY.
FP3: GRO lost the engine cover on his Lotus; KVY had a water leak which meant he missed some of FP3; HAM had a spin. ROS is fastest (1:26.021) followed by VET, HAM, BOT, RAI, RIC and MAS.
RIC has now used all four engines (the limit for the season) but this is only race #5; expect lots of penalties for the Red Bull driver over the remaining 15 races.
Air temperature 25°C; track 44°C; just 1% chance of rain
Tyre choices are: prime=hard (orange); option=medium (white)
Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Green lights for the start of the session but everyone still sitting in their garage
Local boy MER is first out of the pits
HUL and HAM on track too
Radio for ROS – surface temp higher than FP3, as expected
ROS runs wide in Turn 13
Radio for RAI: apologising for putting him out in traffic; RAI complains of lack of rear-end grip too
4mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are KVY, GRO, MAL, STE, MER
Even HAM (currently P1) going out for another lap
RAI on options, using a set of medium tyres
Chequered flag; bottom 5 still KVY, GRO, MAL, STE, MER
MAL P5, pushing ERI to P16
KVY P9, relegating VES
GRO P7, RIC to P16
ERI P13, HUL down to P16
VES P8, BUT now in jeopardy
BUT P13, means ERI back down to P16
Back of the grid will be ERI, HUL, PER, STE, MER
Qualifying session 2 (Q2)
Is HAM playing safe or is ROS really quicker? Should make for a good race
Radio from BUT – really pulls to the left when braking for Turn 1
5mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are ALO, GRO, MAL, BUT, NAS
Everyone in the pits preparing for a final run
Top 5 stay in the pits but everyone else on track
Chequered flag; bottom 5 still ALO, GRO, MAL, BUT, NAS
MAL P11 but still not through to Q3
Middle of the grid will be GRO, MAL, ALO, BUT, NAS
Qualifying session 2 (Q2)
Battling over the top 10 spots are ROS, HAM, RAI, MAS, VET, BOT, VES, SAI, RIC & KVY
Green lights, but again no rush to get on track
BOT, RAI, HAM head out
RAI having to used a scrubbed set of tyres because he used an extra set of options in Q1
BOT runs wide through Turn 9 – completely off track, so will his lap time count?
5mins left of Q3; order is ROS, HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, VES; no time from MAS, SAI, RIC or KVY
Radio from HAM saying balance needs to go rearward
3mins left; heading out for a final run
HAM slower than ROS in Sector 1
HAM still P2
Front of the grid: ROS, HAM, VET, BOT, SAI, VES, RAI, KVY, MAS, RIC
Both Toro Rosso drivers ahead of both Red Bulls
Provisional grid: ROS, HAM, VET, BOT, SAI, VES, RAI, KVY, MAS, RIC; GRO, MAL, ALO, BUT, NAS; ERI, HUL, PER, STE, MER.