Saturday 27 August 2011

Spa Qually: Vettel confounds us once again

Sebastian Vettel took pole positon yet again
Credit: Alex Comerford / CC
So, Seb has confounded us again. It's odd that in a season that a Red Bull has been pole everywhere and Seb has claimed all but three of them that his claiming of pole today should feel rather unexpected, but there you go. In a breathless wet-to-dry qualifying session so typical of Spa, wherein the times tumbled throughout and the timing screen resembled a fruit machine, Vettel claimed pole position at the last.

Spa, with its long straights, wasn't supposed to suit the Red Bull, but on the limited and rain-disrupted evidence of the running so far the Red Bulls appear to be right on it, wet or dry, and not giving much away on straightline speed. Furthermore the final qualifying session, where slicks were used on a still greasy surface, required bravery, commitment and judgement. Young Seb has plenty of those and put them to use.

Lewis Hamilton will start second tomorrow
Credit: / CC
His fastest time in the end was half a second clear of Hamilton in second and a full second clear of Webber in third. Webber admitted that he took too much out of his tyres before his final lap, and it appears Vettel's own judgement on this matter was perfect.

Not unusually for a wet-dry qualifying session there are some interlopers at the business end of the grid. Behind Massa in fourth we have Rosberg, Alguersuari and the amazing Bruno Senna, in his first race after replacing Nick Heidfeld at Renault, in that order. Only then do we find Fernando Alonso, starting eighth, who didn't get it together in the third qualifying session, a state of affairs that he attributed to traffic and not getting heat into his tyres (something that's dogged the Ferrari all season).

Alonso will be one to watch in the race
Credit: / CC
Still, given a dry day he may be the quickest guy on the track tomorrow, and watching his progress will be a key theme for the race. Alonso reckons he's still in with a shout of winning in such circumstances.

The DRS zone tomorrow is thought to be particularly generous, which as well as helping the progress of the likes of Alonso and Button (who starts 13th after a goof up) will also make it harder for the leader to escape. Breaking the one-second DRS window will be key for Vettel controlling the race tomorrow.

Another factor, as always at Spa, is the weather. The forecast is for a dry race, but forecasts aren't always worth a great deal in Spa's mini clime. The more rain there is the more it will help Lewis spoil Seb's day. A dry day may mean it's Seb's race to lose.

Qualifying results
Qualifying highlights, courtesy of the BBC (UK only)

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