You have to give credit to Force India – they’ve set themselves a target and they’re sticking to it. Here’s what Adrian Sutil said before the Malaysian Grand Prix:
Q2 is for sure my aim, and I really think we could make it this time.
Sound familiar? Here’s what Colin Kolles said previewing the Spanish Grand Prix:
Our targets this time out will be to reach Q2 in qualifying and to score points. We are working very hard to reach these targets and I am confident we will reach them sooner rather than later.
And sure enough in their Turkish Grand Prix preview it was Giancarlo Fisichella’s turn:
Of course at the moment the field is so close that one tenth of a second can mean the difference between Q2 and just missing out, so we have to make sure we are completely on top of the game.
This is not meant to scoff at them – they know where their car’s performance is and the realistic next step for them is to do better in qualifying. I fancy Fisichella’s chances of doing it at Monte-Carlo, where he’s usually quite handy and had his best qualifying and race performance last year.
But on raw pace at a track like Istanbul? I’m not sure. Toro Rosso, who many predicted to do well after winter testing, have also struggled and without the new STR3 this weekend it looks like the back rows of the grid will feature the familiar faces minus, of course, Super Aguri.
Exactly how the qualifying system will work with 20 cars is not explicitly clear but we can make an educated guess. The FIA Sporting Regulations say:
33 Qualifying practice
33.1 The qualifying practice session will take place on the day before the race from 14.00 to 15.00.
The session will be run as follows:
a) From 14.00 to 14.20 (Q1) all cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest seven cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session.
Lap times achieved by the seventeen remaining cars will then be deleted.
b) From 14.27 to 14.42 (Q2) the seventeen remaining cars will be permitted on the track and at the end of this period the slowest seven cars will be prohibited from taking any further part in the session.
Lap times achieved by the ten remaining cars will then be deleted.
c) From 14.50 to 15.00 (Q3) the ten remaining cars will be permitted on the track.
The above procedure is based upon a Championship entry of 24 cars. If 22 cars are entered only six cars will be excluded after Q1 and Q2.
Presumably with 20 cars participating five will be excluded after Q1 and Q2. That gives Force India and everyone else one car fewer to beat to make it through – but two of the cars they could have counted on beating will no longer be then.
If anything, Force India’s goal of reaching Q2 might now be even harder.