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Calling Elvis – The Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying Review

Nikki Grubb-Clarke takes you through the Spanish Grand Prix Qualifying. It was a rubbish day for the McLarens and Williams, and a not-so-rubbish day for Lewis Hamilton and crew. The best moment of them all, of course, was when Lew-Lew put Sebastian Vettel in his place. We have been waiting for it, haven’t we?

Now its only fair I tell you up front – Chitra isn’t writing this. She is currently playing with Boys on Bikes in Monza, as part of her win and new-found, much-deserved reputation as a Double Award Winning Writer (I know, check her out!), so you have the pleasure of MY company for the F1 this weekend. How lucky are you?!? Yes, I know…don’t worry, Chits will be back soon and normal service shall be resumed!

Well we’re back in Europe on the F1 Calendar and a chance to see what those busy bunnies in the factories have come up with to improve their cars.

Spanish Grand Prix - Saturday

Under most pressure this weekend are undoubtedly McLaren and Williams. McLaren, I’m sad to say, are uncharacteristically rubbish! Jenson can’t seem to stop whinging, still, and the car is just not giving either Jenson or Checo a chance at getting a really great result. Practice results on Friday were woeful – so much so that the team made the decision to have a new nose couriered out to Barcelona for use on Saturday. Huge shame no one thought to pop to the FIA Bus in the paddock and check whether the planned nose falls within the rules. There appears to be significant concern that it doesn’t and as such, they haven’t used it. Epic Expensive Fail. Interestingly, Eddie Jordan, when speaking after Qualifying, shared that he thinks it’s a problem with the structure behind the scenes at McLaren that has filtered through, and brought about a car that’s not what they’re used to. He suggested that the structure requires resolving before the car will be any good. Is Eddie joining our ‘Bring Back Ron Dennis’ club? Oh I do hope so! We need some crazy shirts to look at in our get-togethers!

As for Williams, well who knows what’s going on there…but long may it continue, I say. It’s giving me a heck of a good laugh!!

So, qualifying. Here’s what happened…

Qualifying 1

First and foremost, at the start of every Q1, my wish is 1) Bottas out-qualifies Maldonado to prove that Williams TOTALLY saw the $$$ when they so horribly dumped our Beautiful Bruno and kept Crashtor; and 2) Neither Williams gets out of Q1. Someone certainly had their Lucky Charms for breakfast, because both of my wishes were granted. Imagine my happiness – nae, pure hysteria – when, at the end of the session Bottas was in 17th and Maldonado was 18th. Oh its days like this that makes you glad you’re alive!

Van der Garde had a superb session to plant his Caterham 19th and best of the bottom 4, while Jules Bianchi continued his domination of Wallet Chilton to take 20th. Charles Pic proves himself the Strong Man of F1, holding up the rest of the grid.

Gutierrez in his Sauber held up poor Kimi really quite badly on his fast run, but thankfully didn’t stop him getting through to Q2. Kimi characteristically had nothing to say about it. The FIA however did, and slapped Guttierez with a 3-place grid penalty.

Maldonado also had a ‘holding-up’ moment, this time holding up Jenson Button, although nowhere near as badly as Kimi was held up. Jenson, characteristically, had a right good whine about it, and insisted there MUST be a penalty due for that! The FIA disagree with Jenson on that one, and no penalty has been handed down, although many are hoping the FIA makes McLaren add an extra button to their steering wheel for every time JB wants to have a whinge, so no one else has to hear it. I also confess to being a little disappointed at the lack of penalty, if only because it denies me of another ‘point and laugh at Williams’ opportunity.

For me, Q1 can mainly be summed up in 1 sentence. HAHAHA Williams suck!!!

Cars out in Q1

17 Bottas (williams) *Will start 16th due to Gutierrez penalty

18 Maldonardo (williams) *Will start 17th due to Gutierrez penalty

19 Van Der Garde (Caterham) *Will start 18th due to Gutierrez penalty

20 Bianchi (Marussia)

21 Chilton (Marussia)

22 Pic (Caterham)

Spanish Grand Prix - Saturday

Qualifying 2

Having barely scraped through to Q2 in 12th (PER) and 14th (BUT) places, there was very little expectation that the McLarens were going to make it through into Q3, although as I tweeted immediately before the start of Q2, I had my fingers crossed for Checo. I think he’s been a little intimidated by the ‘Team Leader’ and maybe a little too respectful. Until Bahrain, and he showed a little more of what it was McLaren saw in him in the first place. And Jenson REALLY didn’t like it up him! If Checo could get into Q3 ahead of Button, it would answer a lot of the critics, who wondered what on earth McLaren were doing employing him in the first place. He pulled out an absolute blinder in a car that is, let’s face it, a donkey by McLaren standards, and WALLOP! 7th fastest in the session, do pass go, do collect a place in Q3! Bravo, Checo. And what of Jenson? 14th. Behind both Torro Rossos.

This led to contemplation on Twitter of the reasons JB would offer as to why Checo had so conclusively outqualified him. My favourite suggestion from @Liamthenry was that he either thought he saw Elvis, or had been slowed down by a baby rhino. As much as I had my fingers crossed for the baby rhino, it turned out to be that his tyre pressures had been set too high. Jenson sticking to the tried and tested ‘if all else fails, blame the tyres’ tactic. He should have gone with the baby rhino.

Following F1 and Football at the same time on Twitter can occasionally have its pit falls, as I found out when my Time Line was filled with yelps of a penalty for Massa. ‘Who does HE play for’ I found myself asking – but no, watch the replay, Nikki. He impeded Mark Webber on a fast lap absolutely blatantly. They both made it through to Q3, but will there be repercussions for the Ferrari?

After a fairly ‘Meh’ set of practice sessions and a good but not great Q1, Lewis Hamilton did a big old ‘The Simpsons’ style ‘HA-AH’ to the rest of the field and right at the last minute did a STONKER of a lap to post the fastest time of the session. Didn’t see THAT coming, did you Finger Boy?!?

11 Ricciardo (Torro Rosso)

12 Vergne (Torro Rosso)

13 Sutil  (Force India)

14 Button (McLaren)

15 Hulkenberg (Sauber)

16 Gutierrez (Sauber) *Will start 19th following 3 place penalty for blocking

The Ferraris were flying, but not too fast. Image courtesy Ferrari  (for editorial use only)

The Ferraris were flying, but not too fast. Image courtesy Ferrari (for editorial use only)

Qualifying 3

The final shootout. Who would and who wouldn’t run? Traditionally, Barcelona is kinder to you the further up the grid you are, and as we haven’t seen quite as many tyre degradation issues as at other tracks so far this year, it was looking good that everyone would have a run. The Ferraris had been FLYING in the practice sessions and expectations were high that at his home grand prix, Fernando Alonso would take the pole, with a possible Ferrari front row, although you could never rule out the Red Bulls, could you.

But the Mercs had an ace up their sleeve!  Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

They had an ace up their sleeve! Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

Don’t think Mercedes read the script.

Out of absolutely NOWHERE, Nico Rosberg planted it on provisional pole with his first flying lap. After Lewis’ sudden finding of pace in Q2, it was starting to become obvious that someone had been sandbagging a little in Practice. Naughty Ross Brawn!!

As the rest of the grid came out and put their laps in, Nico’s time started looking better and better and in the final post flag scrap, he put another, even FASTER time in to pin down the pole, while his team mate Lewis Hamilton popped in a stormer to take 2nd. Mercedes securing themselves a thoroughly unexpected front row, booting Vettel (who, sources at the circuit suggest, was booed by the Barcelona crowd every time he appeared on the big screen. (Is it wrong that I find that funny?!?) onto the second row and the Ferraris to a surprising third row lockout. Sadly though, Massa’s Ferrari International Assistance membership appears to have lapsed, and he has been handed a 3-place Grip Penalty for blocking Webber in Q2.

The final line-up

The final line-up

1 Rosberg (Mercedes)

2 Hamilton (Mercedes)

3 Vettel (Red Bull)

4 Raikkenon (Lotus)

5 Alonso (Ferrari)

6 Massa (Ferrari) *Will start 9th following Massa’s 3-place penalty for blocking

7 Grosjean (Lotus) *Will start 6th due to Massa penalty

8 Webber (Red Bull) *Will start 7th due to Massa penalty

9 Perez (McLaren *Will start 8th due to Massa penalty

10 Di Resta (Force India)

So Nico Rosberg has the advantage going into the race tomorrow, but with the Mercedes team being notorious for its race pace being shocking in comparison to its qualifying pace, you can’t help think it’s going to be between Kimi and Vettel for the win.

I’m hoping, wishing, crossing my fingers, and praying to the Magnum God that it’s Kimi.

…and if anyone has access to the VET side of the RBR garage and knows where they keep the alternators…well I think you know what I’m saying…

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