Alonso looks strongest whatever the weather does

2012 British Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Silverstone, 2012The first thing we all want to know about tomorrow’s race is whether Silverstone is finally going to get some respite from the rain, or if it’s going to be another near-flooded session.

There’s certainly going to be rain in the region tomorrow, but when it falls is critical. During the course of writing this article the hour-by-hour forecast for the area has changed from showing no rain in the two-hour period following the race’s 1pm start time to persistent rain throughout.

The start

Last year’s race was the first at the new starting location leading into Abbey. The track was wet from earlier rain but quite dry near the starting area, so a standing start was used.

Pole sitter Mark Webber’s lead lasted only as far as the first corner as team mate Sebastian Vettel passed him from second on the grid.

F1’s starting policy in wet races has been the subject of some debate as race control increasingly prefer to use the safety car because of the danger of poor visibility.

Given a normal start, don’t expect anyone to get ahead of Fernando Alonso: he hasn’t lost a place on the first lap all year. Row three is one to watch: Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen have gained 3.25 and 1.5 places on average on lap one this year.

If there’s too much water on the track the race will start behind the Safety Car. That happened in today’s GP2 race, though not before eight laps had been wasted behind the Safety Car.

I despair at this continued practice: If the track is not safe enough to race on why waste such a large portion of the laps? Either start it properly or red flag it so potential racing laps are not ticked off under Safety Car conditions.

Strategy

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Silverstone, 2012Whatever the conditions, teams will have to play it by ear when it comes to strategy, observing tyre wear rates as they go and making plans accordingly. This is usually the case in wet conditions and they have only had a single hour of practice on a dry track.

Whether it’s wet or dry, Alonso holds the strongest hand. His Ferrari was quickest in the dry conditions in final practice. Should it rain, he will likely be the leading from the front with the best visibility in a Safety Car start.

Practice and qualifying has given them some opportunity to assess their relative strengths and weaknesses on the intermediate and wet weather tyres in case it rains. In Lewis Hamilton’s case, he was clearly quicker on the latter. He said: “The full wets had been working really well.

“But, as the track gradually became less wet, I sought better grip and switched to the intermediates ?ǣ but we struggled to get enough temperature into them and just couldn?t switch them on.”

The other McLaren driver looks set to start from 16th following the penalties incurred by different drivers. Jenson Button reflected after his elimination in Q1 that at least he has plenty of fresh wet weather tyres left.

This could be a significant advantage for him if tomorrow’s race is wet: those who went on to compete in Q2 and Q3 covered quite a lot of laps.

Note that the length of the pit lane covered by the speed limit has been slightly extended, so pit stops won’t be as quick as they were last year. The position of the DRS zone remains unchanged.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’46.515 1’56.921 (+10.406) 1’51.746 (-5.175)
2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’47.276 1’55.898 (+8.622) 1’51.793 (-4.105)
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’46.571 1’55.799 (+9.228) 1’52.020 (-3.779)
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’46.279 1’56.931 (+10.652) 1’52.199 (-4.732)
5 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’47.401 1’56.388 (+8.987) 1’53.065 (-3.323)
6 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’47.309 1’56.469 (+9.160) 1’53.290 (-3.179)
7 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’46.449 1’56.802 (+10.353) 1’53.539 (-3.263)
8 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’47.433 1’54.897 (+7.464) 1’53.543 (-1.354)
9 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’47.043 1’56.388 (+9.345)
10 Paul di Resta Force India 1’47.582 1’57.009 (+9.427)
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’47.724 1’57.108 (+9.384)
12 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’47.266 1’57.132 (+9.866)
13 Bruno Senna Williams 1’47.105 1’57.426 (+10.321)
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’46.334 1’55.556 (+9.222) 1’54.382 (-1.174)
15 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’46.494 1’57.895 (+11.401)
16 Jenson Button McLaren 1’48.044
17 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’46.649 1’57.071 (+10.422)
18 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’49.027
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’49.477
20 Timo Glock Marussia 1’51.618
21 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’52.742
22 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’53.040
23 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’47.705 1’57.719 (+10.014)
24 Charles Pic Marussia 1’54.143

Webber said he’d been held up by a Force India after qualifying. But team principal Christian Horner thought there was another reason why Webber was unfortunate not to take a second consecutive pole position at Silverstone:

“Mark was so close to getting the pole, the rain just started to increase as he was completing his lap and he dropped a couple of tenths due to the rain.”

Also ruing lost time was Kimi Raikkonen, whose KERS failed during the session. Lotus technical director James Allison estimated the time lost:

“In the wet conditions we experienced, the lack of KERS would have cost him a couple of tenths. With the KERS functioning it could have been possible to be a position further forwards on the grid.

“That said, being on the correct tyres and crossing the line to be the last driver on a flying lap would have yielded far more time.”

Curiously, Nico Hulkenberg had the same problem as Hamilton in Q3: neither of them could find the same time improvement after switching to the intermediate, missing out on 1.8-4s of lap time gain between Q2 and Q3.

“I don?t understand where the pace went in Q3 when I was on the intermediates because the car felt more tricky to drive and the lap time didn?t come so easy,” said Hulkenberg.

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Fernando Alonso 33.166 (7) 44.665 (12) 28.227 (16)
Mark Webber 33.092 (4) 45.399 (21) 28.163 (15)
Michael Schumacher 33.283 (9) 45.022 (19) 28.137 (14)
Sebastian Vettel 32.938 (2) 44.341 (8) 28.259 (17)
Felipe Massa 33.465 (15) 44.646 (11) 27.905 (6)
Kimi Raikkonen 33.835 (18) 43.384 (3) 28.025 (10)
Pastor Maldonado 33.333 (12) 44.338 (7) 27.844 (5)
Lewis Hamilton 33.430 (13) 43.151 (1) 27.808 (4)
Romain Grosjean 33.144 (5) 44.516 (10) 28.089 (12)
Paul di Resta 33.488 (16) 44.916 (18) 28.015 (9)
Nico Rosberg 33.275 (8) 44.713 (14) 28.757 (21)
Daniel Ricciardo 32.993 (3) 43.405 (4) 27.745 (3)
Bruno Senna 33.306 (10) 44.805 (16) 28.083 (11)
Nico Hulkenberg 33.308 (11) 44.689 (13) 27.971 (8)
Sergio Perez 33.626 (17) 43.575 (5) 27.499 (2)
Jenson Button 33.154 (6) 43.330 (2) 28.405 (18)
Kamui Kobayashi 33.441 (14) 45.193 (20) 27.958 (7)
Vitaly Petrov 34.146 (20) 44.817 (17) 28.471 (20)
Heikki Kovalainen 34.259 (21) 44.416 (9) 28.405 (18)
Timo Glock 33.976 (19) 44.767 (15) 28.116 (13)
Pedro de la Rosa 34.831 (23) 46.025 (23) 29.560 (24)
Narain Karthikeyan 34.979 (24) 47.667 (24) 29.273 (22)
Jean-Eric Vergne 32.887 (1) 43.625 (6) 27.341 (1)
Charles Pic 34.265 (22) 45.694 (22) 29.485 (23)

The varying levels of water on the track make the sector times data rather hard to follow.

Some drivers were caught out at the end of Q1 by rain falling in the final sector. They included Timo Glock, who spun: “The last lap of my second run was very strong and I thought ‘Wow, we have a chance at Q2 here’.

“Then I came up to the Hangar Straight and I just saw this massive rain front ahead of me. The last sector was massively wet, whereas before it was very dry, and I thought ‘I can?t believe it. We?re going to lose everything.’

“In the last two corners there was no grip and I just couldn?t continue the pace to keep on pulling out the gap, so in the end we ended up where we normally are position-wise.”

The yellow flag following Romain Grosjean’s spin at the end of turn two appears to have had no repercussions for any of the drivers.

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 301.9 (187.6)
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 299.8 (186.3) -2.1
3 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 298.7 (185.6) -3.2
4 Paul di Resta Force India 298.7 (185.6) -3.2
5 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 297.1 (184.6) -4.8
6 Romain Grosjean Lotus 296.3 (184.1) -5.6
7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 296.2 (184.1) -5.7
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 296.2 (184.1) -5.7
9 Bruno Senna Williams 294.9 (183.2) -7.0
10 Timo Glock Marussia 294.7 (183.1) -7.2
11 Felipe Massa Ferrari 294.6 (183.1) -7.3
12 Charles Pic Marussia 294.6 (183.1) -7.3
13 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 294.5 (183.0) -7.4
14 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 293.8 (182.6) -8.1
15 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 293.7 (182.5) -8.2
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 293.7 (182.5) -8.2
17 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 293.6 (182.4) -8.3
18 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 293.4 (182.3) -8.5
19 Jenson Button McLaren 293.1 (182.1) -8.8
20 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 293.1 (182.1) -8.8
21 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 291.1 (180.9) -10.8
22 Sergio Perez Sauber 289.3 (179.8) -12.6
23 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 289.1 (179.6) -12.8
24 Mark Webber Red Bull 288.6 (179.3) -13.3

As always when the teams anticipate a wet race the set-ups they are using is a significant unknown quanity.

Paul di Resta said: “We actually took a bit of gamble on the qualifying session being dry and that?s the direction we took with the set-up, but it made driving very difficult in today?s wet conditions.

“I think some other cars went more aggressive with a full wet set-up so hopefully my gamble will come back to me tomorrow in the race.”

It’s easy to exaggerate the importance of the different between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ set-ups. There is less of a difference between the two these days, particularly since the change in the aerodynamic rules in 2009.

Steeper wing angels for more downforce in wet conditions would be reflected in slower maximum speeds. Red Bull are at the foot of the speed trap figures although they’re usually found near the bottom at fully dry race weekends too.

Over to you

Who do you think will win at Silverstone? Where can Button recover to having been eliminated in Q1?

Have your say in the comments

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36 comments on Alonso looks strongest whatever the weather does

  1. realracer (@realracer) said on 7th July 2012, 23:15

    Fernando Has had good starts this year, plus he understands the Pirelli’s in wet conditions very well, and with Ferrari’s quick pit-stops I reckon its going to take a might effort from another driver to beat him.

  2. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 7th July 2012, 23:24

    Vettel for the win, and if possible (It’s asking a lot)
    Heikki Kovalainen in second place.
    In third place, I’d like Kimi.
    My ideal podium.

  3. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 7th July 2012, 23:28

    Wel lim going to say a little prayer for plenty on changing conditions during tomorrows race as if we can have anything like todays qualifying, minus the 90 minute break then were in for a treat.

    Shame Hulkenberg is way back in 14th when he was threatening a front row place in Q1+Q2. and Sauber were not with it with the tyre choice, especially Perez.

    Whatever the weather i expect to see 14th-17th Hulkenberg, Button and the two Saubers to be making strides towards the points through the race, Have a feeling Massa wil have his best drive of the season.

    My top 3 dry or wet – Alonso, Schumacher, Massa

    • tflb1 (@) said on 7th July 2012, 23:33

      People are praising Massa a lot, and while he is 5th on the grid and may well finish well inside the top ten tomorrow, he was also outqualified by Alonso by 1.3 seconds, which is not a great performance at all when you think about it.

      • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 7th July 2012, 23:53

        @tflb1 well, considering how bad it was for him a couple of races ago, 5th on the grid, in the wet, at Silverstone (where he spun 6 times back in 2008, at his top form, in similar conditions), it’s like winning the world championship!

        • tflb1 (@) said on 8th July 2012, 0:14

          He’s already spun several times this weekend I think, set for more if it rains tomorrow…

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th July 2012, 0:24

        No, but for Massa it marks a huge improvement, I think we can say Ferrari now have a very good car.

  4. tflb1 (@) said on 7th July 2012, 23:31

    If Glock had strung all his best sectors together he would have done a 1:46.85, which would have been enough for Q2 for Marussia. It’s a shame really that none of the new teams took this opportunity to get themselves further up the grid. I wouldn’t rule out one of the new teams getting a point tomorrow though, I think it’s going to be a crazy race. Ideally, it would start in dry or intermediate conditions then there would be no need for one of those ridiculous and pointless safety car starts. However, something I fear is that if during the race it gets to full wet conditions, then the FIA will put the safety car out.

  5. Eleanore (@leucocrystal) said on 7th July 2012, 23:34

    The yellow flag due to Grosjean’s spin at the very end definitely caught Senna out; he was green in all sectors and on course to make it into Q3 for the first time this season, but then had to lift. Team radio confirmed this, apparently. Quite a bummer.

    This was definitely the most insane qualifying session I can recall in quite a long time. I mean that in a good way, though! The only bit I wasn’t fond of (apart from such a long red flag session) was the bit just before it when it was getting scarily dangerous for them out there.

  6. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 7th July 2012, 23:45

    Whatever the weather, I just hope they don’t start the race with the Safety Car, just to troll along for ten laps and then start the race. I rather see it posponed than that. Today’s GP2 race was a fricking disaster.

    As for who’s gonna win. I have absolutely NO idea.

  7. marcusbreese (@marcusbreese) said on 7th July 2012, 23:46

    I think Schumi could be looking good for the win tomorrow – he looked pretty handy, and I believe his Q3 time was set on full wets? Definitely think he’ll pass Webber at the start tomorrow.

    • Postreader said on 8th July 2012, 0:25

      He set his time on inters, but they were still heating.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th July 2012, 0:30

      I agree with you, I would like to see a Webber win but predicting how this one is going to end is a fools errand, save to say this is probably the best chance for Schumi so far this year.

  8. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 7th July 2012, 23:58

    At the start of the GP3 race, the right-hand side of the grid really struggled to get going (2nd, 4th, 6th etc). Surprised to see such a difference between the two sides after all that rain. So that could be a factor if the Grand Prix has a standing start (like Keith, I really hope it does) and it’s dry enough to start on slicks.

    Haven’t seen any updates about Maria de Villota tonight, so I assume no news is good news.

  9. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 8th July 2012, 0:23

    Like I said before, if Alonso wins tomorrow from pole, I am very confident that he’ll win the drivers championship this season.

    Why? Because not only is he a brilliant driver, but then Ferrari have proven themselves to be competitive in all three types of circuits. A mechanical grip circuit as Monaco, a top speed circuit as Canada, and a downforce circuit at Silvestone. They have a complete car and a complete driver, what’s going to stop them?

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 8th July 2012, 7:33

      I agree with your thinking… but the problem is that Red Bull has a car that is slightly better on all kinds of circuits.. and a driver who can capitalise on slight advantages very well.

      I think an Alonso win at Silverstone will improve Ferrari’s confidence and solidify Alonso’s points tally, but the championship outcome depends on how Red Bull develop the car and whether Vettel can maximise every opportunity like Alonso has.

  10. Ral (@ral) said on 8th July 2012, 0:26

    If it rains tomorrow, I don’t think past performance will be any indication of what will happen anyway, but while Massa might have gained 3.25 places on average in the first laps so far, I think a good case could be made that at least partly that was due to starting out of position in the first place.

  11. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 8th July 2012, 0:48

    As an Alonso fan I just hope for a clean dry race encouraged by FP3.

    I’d also very much like to see Schumacher getting together another strong race. Hey, he can be considered a contender after all from 3rd place, if it rains, that is.

    But even then, we don’t know how much setup work has been done in 60 mins of dry running by the teams, how one is more geared towards a wet setup, etc., so I expect some sudden unforeseen changes of pace thorough the race compared to the one we’d normally consider or predict.

  12. Mariano (@mariano) said on 8th July 2012, 1:31

    It will be very interesting to see Alonso and Schumacher competing again head to head as when Fernando won his two world championships back in 2005 and 2006.

  13. HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th July 2012, 2:43

    Once again that useless old never-was Mark Webber seems to be a little faster than the greatest champion the world will ever see, his team-mate Seb Vettel.
    I have been warming to Seb lately so I will be disappointed if he barges or brake-checks his team-mate off the track at the start.
    If we get a clean, orderly start I expect to see a great battle between Webber and Alonzo two great overtaking/defending drivers although I am afraid the RedBulls will have no defence against the Ferraris in the DRS zone.

  14. infy (@infy) said on 8th July 2012, 4:05

    The mercs are excellent wet wheather starters and Micheal is excellent at taking other cars out. Hoping Alonso see’s him coming and gets well out of the way.

  15. DVC (@dvc) said on 8th July 2012, 4:08

    “I despair at this continued practice: If the track is not safe enough to race on why waste such a large portion of the laps? Either start it properly or red flag it so potential racing laps are not ticked off under Safety Car conditions.”

    +1

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