Saturday, 8 May 2010

Barcelona Qualifying: Red Bull emphatically take front row

Saturday's qualifying session in Cataluyna was simply dominated this afternoon by Red Bull Racing with Mark Webber taking pole by a tenth of a second from Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton was third for Mclaren, over three quarters of a second behind Webber. Fernando Alonso beat the other McLaren of Jenson Button to 4th while the other world champion on the grid Michael Schumacher came in 6th, outqualifying Nico Rosberg, who was 8th, for the first time this season. Robert Kubica impressively sandwiched the Silver Arrows as well as beating Felipe Massa, the man he is rumoured to be replacing at Ferrari in 2011. Kamui Kobayashi was 10th, impressing in getting his Sauber into Q3.

The Red Bull one lap pace was mega, both drivers cruised through the first 2 sessions on the hard compound tyre and nothing much changed in Q3 when the soft compound, which everyone in Q3 used, was fitted. With Webber showing strong pace on a long stint on Friday, the Red Bull is clearly the fastest car on the grid at this present time. The start may well determine the outcome, barring the intervention of rain, as the agreement is that the man in front has first call on pit strategy. McLaren seem to be Red Bull's main challengers. Lewis Hamilton's only hope in dry conditions tomorrow is likely to be the start where if he can get past at least one of the Red Bulls would be able to maintain track position due to McLarens straight line speed advantage.

Fernando Alonso cheered the home crowd with 4th, making use of the cars F-Duct and convincingly beating team mate Massa. The Brazilian seemed downbeat with his performance, concerned that he had been unable to find the right balanace with the F10. Alonso had an eventful qualifying with much focus on him working in the cockpit, where he used the back of his left hand to operate the F-Duct in addition to using his right hand to adjust the brake bias. There was also drama early in Q3 when he drove out of the garage and nearly collided with Nico Rosberg who was unhappy with the incident. Ferrari were fined $20,000 for an unsafe release. Rosberg has been slower than Michael Schumacher all weekend and seemed slightly frustrated by the changes to the Mercedes saying he felt they were a step back. He vented frustration at the near miss with Alonso over the team radio and seem to be expressing his views with Schumacher after the session.

Robert Kubica impressed again for Renault with an excellent 7th and Sauber's improvements were displayed with Kamui Kobayashi's impressive 10th. However it was a bad day for Williams with Rubens Barichello going out in Q1 and declaring that the teams upgrades had not worked. Vitaly Petrov will start 19th after taking a gearbox penalty. The Russian caught a wet kerb at turn 4 in morning practice and spun off into the barrier causing significant damage. Both Virgin drivers will take penalties after the team failed to inform the FIA of it's gear ratio selections in time. Karun Chandok beat Bruno Senna in the HRT battle but will also take a gearbox penalty. Senna's lap time was only 6 tenths of a second quicker than the pole time set in the GP2 series on Friday.

The latest weather updates is showing rain moving in across the afternoon. The radar images would seem to show that the chance of rain is still small and if it does arrive it will likely be light. However, both McLaren and Red Bull believe there will be rain in the second half of the race tomorrow. Wet conditions could well be the only thing to hamper Red Bull's victory chances tomorrow. Check my Twitter in the morning for an update on the weather as well as live updates and views throughout the race with post-race analaysis here on the blog. Feel free to comment and offer your views on tomorrows race as well. Start time is 1300 BST

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