It’s almost at an end. We’ve endured four grueling weeks without F1, and still have a bit more than a week left to go, but the end is in sight. Come this time next week the engines will be firing for FP1, and there is no better track to end our withdrawal at than Spa. Spa is a track that never disappoints with it’s fast speeds, ample overtakes, and weather that is as changeable as Maldonado’s race performance. We’ll also get to see exactly what kind of upgrades the teams have designed over the break.
Even with a mandatory two week off period, the teams still had three weeks to develop and prepare their various upgrade packages. The one I’m most excited to see is the Lotus DDRS concept, since they are the only team so far to do any real testing on the concept apart from Mercedes. Beyond that, I can’t see anyone doing anything drastic. Ferrari [read: Alonso] have recovered quite well from their miserable start, and should be able to bring evolutionary parts instead of revolutionary ones. Caterham still have to find that second or so of pace they were talking about. It’s safe to say their Silverstone upgrade failed epically, but a recent announcement gives me some hope. Caterham plan on making their 2013 car an upgraded version of the 2012 machine, rather than starting from scratch. As a result, they are going to develop the 2012 car much further into the season than originally planned. Sounds good to me. I say, #PERRRRKELE!
Last year’s race was an interesting one. Vettel shocked everyone by winning, Webber stalled his engine, Schumacher had an epic recovery drive, and Hamilton crashed into Kobayashi. But none of that can even come close to comparing to the balls-to-the-wall, pants wetting awesomeness that was the Alonso/Webber battle into Eau Rouge. It was pure win. Senna’s debut [in a proper F1 car] on the other hand, was not pure win. He decided to pull a Nakajima and BANZAI!!! his way into the first corner, giving Alguersuari a swift kick in the arse. While Bruno continued, Jaime had to retire. The impact ended up claiming Jenson’s right mirror and front wing, and jumbled up the order as everyone had to dive around the debris.
Fast forward a year, and everything has changed. In 2011, Vettel winning was added alongside death and taxes as one of life’s certainties. Now, he spends less time out front and more time crying on the radio. McLaren lack pace, Alonso is performing miracle after miracle, and Lotus keep getting stronger. Mix in the LOLrelli tires, a weather forecast that points to rain, and this could be one of the most unpredictable races yet. With rain a realistic possibility, I’m going to once again divide my predictions into dry and wet.
For quali, the two stars will be Lotus and McLaren, the former with the new working DDRS and the latter spending their billions of quid on upgrades. Ferrari and Red Bull will have their own battle slightly further behind the top two, and Mercedes might mix things up as well. Force India will occupy a “no-man’s land” between the top five teams and other six, using their top speed advantage to pull ahead. After that it will be Sauber from Williams from STR and the usual suspects. I’m going to predict a McLaren 1/4 and a Lotus 2/3 start to the race. Lewis will pull another Barcelona and blow everyone else away, while Grosjean will outqualify Kimi. Button will comfortably settle into P4, bitching about understeer all the way.
For the race, I expect Grosjean to try and spear underneath Lewis into T1, and thankfully miss hitting anyone. Webber will miraculously get a good start, and begin his charge towards the front. In typical fashion, Bruno will hit someone off the line and I hope and pray it’s Maldonado, so we can have a clean, fair race beyond lap 1. Fernando will hold station throughout the race, while Felipe plays defense, having qualified right behind ‘Nando. Felipe’s recent interview revealed that unlike in Germany 2010, he is ready and willing to be Fernando/Ferrari’s bitch, and even if Felipebaby is faster, he won’t challenge Alonso. I hope this was just a PR move, otherwise he’s gonna need that resume very, very soon. As the race goes on, we’ll see a titanic battle between Kimi and Lewis, and McLaren will mercifully not screw up any of Hamilton’s pitstops. However, in order to maintain universal balance, one of the crew members will forget to fasten on of Button’s nuts, leading to his retirement.
In the end, Raikkonen will find a way past Hamilton, and Webber will pull a last lap move on his teammate to take P3. Seb will hold off Alonso for P4, with Massa taking P6.
I’m not going to try and predict a wet quali session, simply because the car/temperature dynamic with the LOLrelli tires is so fickle I could spend hours trying to work out who will go well. So, for simplicity, let’s say quali was dry. Senna will still go up someone’s rear into T1, but Grosjean won’t attempt a pass. Instead, he will wait to spin in Eau Rouge. Into the first few laps it will once again become clear that Ferrari and Sauber are the cars to beat, with them making solid gains through the field. Kimi will struggle for grip and eventually be passed by Alonso somewhere near the quarter way mark. Lewis will prove harder to pass, but Fernando will eventually get it done.
Behind them, the two Sauber drivers will work together to clear the field, with Kobayashi giving everyone Kamui Kisses. Perez will get the jump on Kamui in the pit stops, and it will become clear the Sauber pair are faster than Fernando. Despite Felipe’s best blocking efforts, the two will get by, with Felipe misjudging a defensive move, letting Kobayashi through, and spinning of into the gravel. Alonso will hold Kamui off, but not Perez, who will take his first F1 win with a team who nobody thought could win. Should this happen, contracts will be signed.
Further down, the Red Bull pair will finish P4/P5 ahead of the McLaren boys in P6/P7. Kimi will be lucky to take a few points, while Hekki will finish ahead of the STR team on merit, leading to much drinking and #PERRRRKELE everywhere.
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Romain Grosjean
3. Kimi Raikkonen
4. Jenson Button
5. Fernando Alonso
1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Mark Webber
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Fernando Alonso
6. Felipe Massa
1. Sergio Perez
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Kamui Kobayashi
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Mark Webber
6. Lewis Hamilton
Cucumber of the Race:
C. Romain Grosjean
Over to y’all then! What do you guys think will happen in Belgium this year? Do you agree with me, of think I’m full of it again? Type away!