Saturday, 8 June 2013

Canadian Grand Prix – Qualifying

The star and the pole-sitter from qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix
The star and the polesitter from qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix

And the big news is that it has been piddling down in Montreal and we have a WET track. Huzzah! Gone are the designer blazers of Monaco and the dubious attempts at continental chic from the Sky F1 team and its back to the trusty barbours and sensible outerwear packed by Damon’s lovely wife.

In other news, the final practice session was delayed and shortened to 30 minutes due to emergency repair work to some armco barriers, trashed during an earlier support race. Anyway thank the Lord – our holiday may be over but joy of joys we are able to enjoy the weekend’s race coverage on Sky.

The main chit-chat to kill time before qualifying began revolved around Mercedes and that whole messy business of the top-secret Pirelli test that leaked out over the Monaco weekend. Tyregate rumbles on and on and on. Christian Horner is still spouting off about ‘lack of transparency’ in that very new Labour way he has about him. Everyone is very vexed about Mercedes running a 2013 car in the test which is apparently contrary to the regulations. Tribunal hearing is on 20 June so watch this space. Expect fall-out at the British Grand Prix.

Christian is really annoyed about the Pirelli test unless Vettel gets pole. Oh.
Christian Horner - really annoyed about the Pirelli test unless Vettel gets pole. Oh.

There was an interesting chat between Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert about the continuing woes of Romain Grosjean this year (he has been slapped with a 10-place grid penalty following his antics at Monaco) and how it is very difficult and counter-productive for a driver to try and change his style. Simon Lazenby really wasn’t on the same page and kept missing the point. Plus ca change.

Also there was a Force India feature but I might have nodded off.

Paddock gossip from Ted: The Bahraini royal family are in the building shooting the breeze. Why? Turns out the first race of next season will be in Bahrain. Oh Good. She says with the heaviest possible sarcasm.

Qualifying is about to begin and the rain has arrived. We love Montreal in Power Towers – bonkers racing, bonkers weather and the greatest gift of all, an evening Grand Prix (ie. with alcohol). We were told in mildly hysterical tones that no team-mate has ever out-qualified Lewis and no team-mate has ever out-qualified Nico at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. And Lewis has never been outqualified by a team-mate four times a row. Canada is one of his best tracks (3 wins) so will he manage to prise pole or even just finish ahead of Rosberg. Or will Vettel spoil everyone’s party and get pole.

Halfway through Q1 and Rosberg is splitting the Red Bulls at the top of the timesheets. Its looking mighty like the Mercedes and the Red Bulls will be the cars to beat, certainly in qualifying. Should Mercedes come out on top, there will be hell to pay if Christian Horner has anything to do with it. Because Red Bull has never ever ever sailed close to the wind with their innovative (or illegal in everyone else’s world) tricks and gizmos.

To quote Martin Brundle (and why not – he does it so well!) we’re getting into the juicy part of Q1. And Bottas has gone 2nd fastest. Do not readjust your sets.

Sutil and Di Resta are languishing dangerously low. And to my horror I note that Kimi is only in 12th place. And Di Resta is on a flier. Well I say flier. Turned out to to be just a crud lap and he ends up in P17. Wow that is really, really bad. That is two races in a row that he has been knocked out of Q1. Will be the team/car/weather’s fault? Of course it will be.

But OMG. Grosjean is in 19th place. To put that in perspective, his team-mate is SECOND in the championship. Stunningly awful. Given he has a 10 place penalty that makes him 29th on the grid!! Okay in reality, that just means last. Poor Romain – he might want to check out the openings in Nascars for the 2014 season.

Booted out of Q1 are (17) Di Resta, (18) Pic, (19) Grosjean, (20) Bianchi, (21) Chilton and (22) Van Der Garde.

The top pack so far are Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Bottas, Massa, Hamilton. *Applauds Bottas* Simply tremendous! And hey guess what, Paul Di Resta is NOT happy. When Simon Lazenby tried to catch him for a quick word, Paul pretty much blanked him on live TV and stormed off. That is new levels of twattiness even for Paul. Poor Simon – he’s a bit of a plum but didn’t deserve that. Di Resta is more than happy to bite Sky’s hand off when they do one of their endless features on him to raise his profile. When they eventually extracted a few curt words from him, it was surprise surprise all the team’s fault. Oh just shut up already.

Ay-up. Q2 is underway.

Vettel has cut a chicane. Will his lap time count? With the rain now falling more heavily, this could mean anxious times for the Red Bull team (they have a forgotten second driver somewhere or other but they don’t care about him). Oh turns out the chicane-cutting doesn’t matter as Vettel has gone blisteringly fast on another lap – a whole second faster than the man in P2, Nico Rosberg. Bah.

Vettel setting the pace!
Vettel setting the pace.

Some really daft driving going on – Massa, Hamilton and Sutil all veering off at the chicanes. I know its raining a bit but guys c’mon.

Now Webber has gone fastest (that’ll teach me for referring to him as a forgotten second driver). Bottas is now 3rd – crosses everything and prays he makes it into Q3. Kimi leaps up into 5th spot from the dropzone. Phew.

And Massa is in the wall. Again. And the session is red-flagged. Replays show he got it on the white line. I really like Felipe but I think it might be time for him to hang up the old helmet and start doing gridwalks for Brazilian TV.

It all now means that the drivers have a 20 second window to get out from the pitlane to complete a warm-up lap and heat up the tyres before going for it. That pitlane queue is going to be a right old bunfight.

And they’re coming out of the garages!! What is Button doing still sat in his garage as the queue forms? Its practically three-way M25 gridlock proportions! Just a fantastic sight to see the cars stacked up against the darkening skies, the engines all humming aand the incredible feeling of tension leaping right out of the TV.

AND THE LIGHTS ARE GREEN! Its not a race but it sure feels a whole lot like one. And Button has missed the cut and is out of qualifying. I knew this would end in tears. Drawing breath at the end of Q2, we have in the knock-out zone:

(11) Hulkenberg, (12) Perez, (13) Maldonado, (14) Button, (15) Gutierrez and (16) Massa.

I’m especially looking forward to the early skirmishes between Perez, Maldonado and Button tomorrow evening! Hope the Safety Car is good to go.

And with five minutes to go of Q3 and its Vettel, Hamilton, Rosberg, Alonso, Kimi, Vergne, Ricciardo, Sutil and Webber. Conditons would appear to be getting even worse. Bottas is now out on track and has jumped into THIRD PLACE. Meanwhile, its now raining even harder.

Now Kimi and Nico are both out. Will Nico snatch pole or leapfrog Lewis? Er no as it turns out. Alonso can’t improve on his time and stays 6th. Its all going very wrong at Ferrari. Its appears to be pretty much over at qualifying as there is now no grip at all out on track despite lots of last ditch attempts.

And so the top ten line up is as follows:
  1. Vettel

  2. Hamilton

  3. Bottas

  4. Rosberg

  5. Webber

  6. Alonso

  7. Vergne

  8. Sutil

  9. Raikkonen

  10. Ricciardo

The star of the day has to be Valtteri Bottas – what an incredible achievement putting a Williams into 3rd place on the grid. I mean really, there are no words. And great performances from both Toro Rosso drivers to qualify P7 and P10.

Did I mention that I love the Canadian Grand Prix. A lot. Lets hope we get a race worthy of Gilles!

Gilles winning in Montreal in 1978
The late great Gilles Villeneuve winning in Montreal in 1978.

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