Observations from 2011 Turkish Grand Prix Qualifying

It was in Turkey last year when I made by GP debut. While the plans were always to debut as a Formula1 racer, I debuted as a team personnel.
Saturday’s qualifying in Turkey was interesting and here are a few observations:

  1. Fernando Alonso managed to qualify 5th again in this race. He has started from fifth place in all the Grand Prix held this season.
  2. Sebastian Vettel clinched his 4th consecutive pole of the season. His nearest competitor was team-mate Mark Webber who was 4 tenths off Vettel’s pace.
  3. Nico Rosberg’s P3 must have been a sense of relief for the Mercedes GP team. It is the first time this season that a Merc GP driver has made it to the top 3.
  4. The top three runners managed to save a set of soft tyres for the race. Teams are getting smarter with their tyre strategies tradeoff between qualifying and the race.
  5. Felipe Massa and Ferrari bolted on a fresh set of soft tyres in Q1, a move that surprised everyone. Kamui Kobayashi had a fuel pressure problem and hence didn’t set a laptime in qualifying, which meant that Massa’s chances of progressing to Q2 were only higher. While I am unable to understand Massa’s tyre strategy in qualifying, I do think that it was a waste of a set of fresh soft tyres.
  6. Kamui Kobayashi will start last due to his mechanical problems, but he will be the man to watch in the race. He has saved all sets of tyres and the Saubers have been the fastest in the speed trap.
  7. Pirelli’s are expecting a 3 stop strategy, but I do see a few drivers opting for an aggressive 4 stopper in Turkey.
  8. HRTs seem to have picked up their pace. Vitantonio Liuzzi managed to out-pace Timo Glock and is Virgin by 2 tenths of a second, but was beaten by his team-mate Jerome d’Ambrosio by two tenths. Narain Karthikeyan however was almost a second off his team-mate’s pace. The HRTs were 2.5 seconds inside the 107% elimination laptime.
  9. The Force India drivers qualified 12th and 13th on the grid. However, Paul di Resta managed to save an extra set of soft tyres in Q2 and his race strategy will be interesting to see.
  10. Michael Schumacher’s pace all weekend was noteworthy, but he failed to clock a good laptime when it mattered most. His Q3 laptime was a full second slower than his team-mate Nico Rosberg. As a result, he will start today’s race from P8, 5 places lower than Nico.

Anyone expecting a Bull-fight in Turkey this year too?