2011 Singapore Grand Prix Qualifying: Top 5 Teams Block Top 10 Slots
Not many times have we seen 5 teams block off the first 10 slots in qualifying and that is exactly what happened in Q3 of the Singapore GP qualifying. Here are my thoughts:
– The bottom three teams were expected to fill in the last 7 grid slots and they did. The only time Q1 gets interesting is when a lesser known team-mate beats the other or when a big name fails to qualify for Q2. Both scenarios occurred in qualifying yesterday.
– Daniel Ricciardo managed to out-qualify his team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi by 4 tenths of a second on merit and I am sure this brought out smiles in the Red Bull Racing garage (Ricciardo is an RBR Juniour driver).
– Narain Karthikeyan drove in FP1 on Friday and was only a tenth off Ricciardo and no it doesn’t imply that Karthikeyan could have managed a better lap than Tonio. Maybe I should have asked them this question when I met both of them in the Paddock!
– The usual Q1 fall guy, Jaime Alguersuari, was out of trouble, but it was the battle of the Lotus Renault GP team-mate to ensure they don’t get eliminated. Senna and Petrov were battling till the last minute to avoid disqualification, but it was Senna who got the better lap in the end. Petrov blamed car troubles for his disqualification, but hoped that a brilliant tyre strategy would help him finish in the points.
– Lotus Renault GP have struggled all weekend here with slow corners. The factory team was unable to compete and match pace with its usual competitors Mercedes and Force India. I will keenly be following their race pace.
– Q2 went off as expected with no disappointments so to say. Williams, Sauber, Toro Rosso claimed grid slots from P11 to P17.
– The only surprise was Kamui Kobayashi’s crash at the only triple apex corner of the circuit, which ultimately brought out the Safety Car. He has been unable to get this corner right and was seen flying through the second apex in Friday practice.
– Kobayashi’s team-mate Perez got the better of the rest after managing P11 ahead of the Williams cars.
– Force India managed to have both their cars qualify and compete together in Q3 for the first time this season. Paul di Resta, who is tenth, was 3 tenths quicker than Perez’s Sauber, in 11th. Impressive driving by Resta who had hydraulic troubles cut down his track time in FP2. This double qualification for Force India proves that they are amongst the top 5 teams on the grid.
– I was cheering for Force India from the pit garage and was keen to see their pace in Q3 of qualifying. However, the team decided to not send the drivers out and accept P9 and P10 as starting positions. While many fans would have been disappointed with this decision, I think it is perfect strategy for the race.
– Michael Schumacher too didn’t clock a lap in Q3 and along with the Force India drivers will have a new set of extra tyres for the race. It will be difficult for this trio to make further ground up on the grid, but it will be interesting to see how their tyre strategy pans out.
– Sebastian Vettel claimed yet another pole with Mark Webber in second, securing a 1-2 for Red Bull in Singapore. Vettel was half a second quicker than both Mclarens and he gained most of his time in Sector 3.
– Lewis Hamilton, who ultimately qualified in P4, suffered from a refueling problem and later had a tussle with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa on their out laps. Button out-qualified Hamilton by only 0.005 sec!
– Ferrari drivers clinched Row 3 on the grid, Alonso managing to clock a second quicker than Massa. In FP3, the Ferraris looked good on the longer runs and I would expect them to try a different strategy to make up places and finish higher.
– The top 10 slots will see team-mates starting next to each other – Red Bull on Row 1, Mclaren on Row 2, Ferrari on Row 3, Mercedes on Row 4 and Force India on Row 5. I wonder when this last occurred in the history of the sport! Well, at the bottom, we have rows 10, 11 and 12, all blocked off by team-mates in Team Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT respectively! So make that 8 rows all blocked off by team-mates!
Points to note:
– Pirelli have brought their super soft (red) and soft tyres (yellow) to Singapore.
– Tyre management will be crucial for all drivers and the difference between both compounds is around 1-1.2 seconds per lap.
– I predict the front runners to use a 3 stop strategy and the mid-grid teams to play between a two and three stopper.
– Overtaking is going to be difficult on this track and hence tyre strategy will be key.