Saturday, March 23, 2013


Fernando, Massa is faster than you now..
Qualifying for the 2013 Malaysian GP is done and guess what? Vettel took pole again in changeable conditions. Yeah I know, Vettel again? Beggining to look like 2011 all over again where Vettel took 14 pole positions. But then again maybe not. I think it was more due to a smart decision based on the conditions.

The Red Bulls started Q1 on the Medium tires which was strange as almost all the top runners used the Hards. It was common sense to use the harder tire for Q1 so as to graduate to the faster Mediums later in Q2 and Q3. Most of the time in Q2 the top teams would still be using the softer of the 2 compounds because they know they can get into Q3 with those tires. No problem.

But here both Red Bulls started Q1 with the Mediums leading most people to think that they either had a tire issue or we trying to save the hard tires for the race. It was a strange decision indeed but upon closer inspection, turned out to be a smart decision as the Sepang track is quite heavy on the tires.

Starting on the mediums would guarantee them into Q2 and if they could just use 1 set then better as they can save more tires. In Q2 the Bulls again used the medium tires but this time Vettel managed to time his run somewhere in the middle of Q2 so as to just egt into Q3 with 1 set of the mediums. And his trick was to use a used set of the mediums from Q1. Smart. Webber for some reason had no choice but to use a new set.

Better believe it for race day..
In Q3 it stared to rain, well in fact it started to rain towards the end of Q2. A few dirvers got caught out and didn't make it to Q3 such as Grosjean and di Resta. di Resta tried to make it desperately going on with his mediums in the slippery conditions but just ended spinning. Q3 started with a wet track and all went out with the intermediate tires.

Vettel made a smart move by going out slightly later than everyone else, which does not raise any eyebrows as we've got accustomed to the Bulls doing this the last 3 years. But that decision would prove pivotal in his pole. He managed to do a respectable time on his first set of intermediates with 1 lap but crucially made the decision to pit for another new set as the track was drying up slightly - not enough for slicks but not too dry for intermediates. He must have felt that it was good enough for the intermediates to survive yet give good traction. That's why he secured pole with almost 1 second from Massa.

That was a smart move, I have to raise my hat to him. The 2 Ferraris followed suit by going for new intermediates after Vettel and suitably landed P2 and P3. This proves that a newer set of intermediate was perfectly suited for the track at that time. All good and proper then and makes sense going by the order. But this means Vettel, Massa and Alonso have used up 1 extra set of intermediate compared to Lewis Hamilton just behind in P4. And we know how important it is to have extra wet tires in Malaysia.

Will he make a difference?
They gambled on being up front because if it rains, you'll get less spray in your face. Which is good. But Hamilton being in P4 with the same intermediate tires bodes well for him as it means he has an extra set if it rains. It also means his pace is quite good on those tires as he managed P4 with used intermediates compared against the top 3 who used a new set.

Surprisingly Raikkonen who also pitted for a fresh set of intermediates could not produce the pace to even beat Hamilton and ended up P7. He starts P7 again in a row and depending on the weather tomorrow, may not be able to make up the number of places he did in Melbourne.

So, there you have it. It will rain again tomorrow at the start of the race or maybe during it, that I can assure you. The teams all have free choice now on what tires to start the race as they qualified on the intermediate. it will be interesting to see what they do then.

1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:49.674
2. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:50.587 +0.913
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:50.727 +1.053
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:51.699 +2.025
5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:52.244 +2.570
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:52.519 +2.845
7. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1:52.970 +3.296
8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:53.175 +3.501
9. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:53.439 +3.765
10. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:54.136 +4.462
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.636 +1.446
12. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.125 +1.935
13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.822 +2.632
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.221 +3.031
15. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:44.509 +8.319
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault no time
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:38.157 +1.348
18. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:38.207 +1.398
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:38.434 +1.625
20. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:39.314 +2.505
21. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.672 +2.863
22. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:39.932s +3.123

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