Saturday 6 November 2010

Interlagos Qually: The incredible Hulk

Wow - there's nothing like a bit of rain to shake up F1. And Interlagos, continuing it's tradition of being a place where the unusual happens, threw up a great qualifying session, with Nico Hulkenberg snatching pole position. And it looked like he was on a different track to everyone else, taking pole by over a second in the end.

The Williams have usually been competitive in wet conditions this season, were the first to make the call to change to slicks as the track dried in the final qually session, and got their timing perfect for when the Hulk would complete his laps. But even with those nothing should be taken away from Nico, whose performance was stunning. It also is perhaps the first time he's showed some real confirmation of the considerable potential he had attributed to him when he arrived in F1 at the start of the season. Let's hope it's the first of many.

It's also timely for both driver and team. The Hulk, despite steady improvement throughout his rookie season, has recently been dogged by rumours of his being replaced at Williams for next year, with GP2 champion Pastor Maldonado and his money bags conspicuously on the horizon. Williams have also been under financial pressure recently, so the associated publicity with the pole will be highly welcome. It's also their first pole position since Nurburgring 2005.

The championship contenders line up behind the Williams, and the Hulk will struggle to hold them off on the long pit straight tomorrow. It'll nevertheless be fun watching him try to do it.

Red Bull will also be happy with their efforts as they line up second and third, Seb ahead of Webbo. They set the pace for most of the qually session, and will be confident that they can take control of the race once that pesky Hulk is dealt with. They'll also be comfortable with Alonso being down in fifth. The Ferraris were strangely subdued throughout: Alonso could though have started higher had it not been for a mistake on his last run. Tomorrow may be a case of damage limitation, though we don't know how much of their performance is down to tilting their set up to dry conditions. Worse, track specialist Massa starts in 9th, and again is failing to support his team mate's title bid.

Lewis salvaged fourth on the grid, though Jenson again struggled in the tricky conditions (I thought they were meant to be his strength?) and will start 11th.

But it was Hulk's day, as well as a reminder of why we love Formula One.
Interlagos qualifying results on the Autosport website

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