Howdy everyone! First an apology for the lack of content. It seems although Steve and I have more than enough free time to record a podcast, we don’t have the time at the same time. Damn timezones…
Anyway, since I totally forgot to preview Australia, I guess the launch of my preview series is here in Malaysia. Hopefully once Steve gets back to regular blogging you’ll be able to read both of our thoughts on how the upcoming GP will pan out. So enough formalities, on to KL!
I was unable to watch the first two practice sessions, but it would seem that my predictions for the top three match the times from P2. Australia showed us just how far McLaren have come over a year. At this point in 2011 they were well down the field, having had to abandon their octo-xhaust concept. Try as they might, it wasn’t until the end of the season, when McLaren finally got the whole floor blowing thing perfected, that they were able to really challenge the Bulls. With the exhausts moved, floor blowing is no longer a major issue. True, there are a few ways around this rule, but I’ve yet to see anyone use them. Additionally, nose heights were lowered for safety reasons, leading to the Alain Nose that we’ve all come to know and hate. Since McLaren have always preferred low noses, this played right into their hands. They’ve been making F1 cars since before Red Bull was even an international drink brand.
It is these two things that have made the MP4-27 the car to beat right now. I picked Hamilton for pole despite his Australia finish for a combination of reasons. First, Hamilton is superior to Button when you need to make bold move and push hard. He has a better single lap pace then his teammate in the dry, at the cost of burning through rubbers faster than a Kardashian. He’s been strong so far this weekend, topping both practice sessions. While Button was likely on a different program in P1, it seems they ran similar setups in P2, and Lewis still ended up on top by 0.3 seconds. It’ll be close between the top three, but I’m confident Button will end up behind Hamilton.
Schumacher in P2 seems like an odd prediction I’ll admit, but I think the old man’s still got it in him. He seems more motivated than ever to win, and I think Mercedes have finally given him a car that can do just that. Their passive F-Duct is a brilliant idea, and is what Merc needed to finally break free from the no man’s land between the midfield and the sharp end. Despite Horner’s bitching, the FIA declared the system fully legal (again) and gave Mercedes the all clear to use it. Beyond that, the W03 seems to be an incredibly quick car considering where they were a year ago. I really don’t know what to say about Rosberg. He had an average Australian GP, and never seemed to have the same performance as Michael. I’m tempted to sub in either Lotus for P5 (before Kimi’s penalty of course) but I think with two long straights the F-Duct will give Merc the edge.
As for Fingerboy, he’s going to have to rely on his race performance to get ahead. Without a blown diffuser, Red Bull have to develop more than one part of their car to compete, something they haven’t had to do for a while. While Newey almost always gets the job done, 2012 may prove to be one of his off years. I know, it’s a bold claim to make with us only being one race in, but the more I see that car in action, the more confident I am that Red Bull will be lucky to be P2 in the constructors this year. Although decreased downforce will inevitably lead to more wheel adjustments, watching Red Bull onboard footage, I’m surprised Seb and Webbo are able to keep that thing on the road. During last race Seb was constantly moving the wheel through all sorts of angles. The thing doesn’t want to stick to the road, and for this reason I think even Lotus stand a chance of pipping the Bull.
And on that note:
So long as Lewis doesn’t have another clutch issue, he should be able to take the race. While Hamilton is much harder on the tires than Button, we’ve yet to see Button really push hard with the new car and reformulated Pirelli rubber. If Button pushes and fights Lewis, Hamilton wins in a straight up fight. If Button goes conservative, Hamilton wins. If it starts raining mid-race, it’s basically a free pitstop for everyone, and so long as Hamilton gets enough of a gap he can manage against the master of Intermediate tires. The only way I think Hamilton can lose this race is if he makes a mistake / finds Felipe, if the race starts wet, or if he blow his tires defending against Schumacher in the early stages.
Vettel will pick up third owing to the W03 taking the Hamilton attitude towards tires. With Pirelli predicting a three stop race due to massive tire deg, I think Mercedes will last six laps in their starting positions before beginning the long trek backwards. Despite a below-average car, the Wunderkind will find a way to get on the podium. He always does. Bastard.
You might think me picking Kamui for P4 is crazy. Maybe, but I don’t think people are giving Sauber enough credit. Not only was Kobayashi able to maintain great pace despite having an almost fully detached endplate flapping about and effing up flow near the rear of the car, he made some crazy move during the race (mostly on Kimi) and came away cleanly. Additionally, once again, the Sauber are very light on their tires, which should help them in KL. I don’t think even Perez will be able to do a two stop if deg is as bad as we think, but the team will be able to push harder for longer than most. So long as the car stays out of trouble, and Kamui doesn’t go too crazy with a shotgun (read his Twitter, this guy’s a trip), he’s set for his best finish in F1. Want more crazy? If we have a wet portion of the race with a crash induced safety car, I think Kobayashi can take P3.
As for Kimi “Blue Flag” Raikkonen, I’m sure he’s taking the news of a 5 place grid drop in typical Kimi don’t give a eff fashion. With the Lotus looking light on the tires, KL is an opportunity for the Iceman to improve on what was an exceptional return to F1. So long as the team can get his power steering issues sorted, his competition will be left wishing the penalty was worse. I’m tempted to put Grosjean here as well. Despite getting punted off in Oz by an angry Venezuelan, he had a brilliant qualifying performance. Time will tell.
So tell me what you think. Agree? Disagree? How do you guys think the field will shake out?