The long run to the first corner in tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix will be as crucial as ever as overtaking at the Circuit de Catalunya is difficult.
Fernando Alonso appears on the front row as something of an interloper this year – last year he clashed with Felipe Massa at the first corner. Might we see a repeat?
Fernando versus the Ferraris
Fernando Alonso starts second on the grid with a Ferrari either side of him just as he did last year – only this time it’s Kimi Raikkonen ahead and Felipe Massa behind.
Last year Alonso had three laps’ less fuel than his team mate for his home race and gambled his race on starting from pole. But it all went wrong when he clashed with Massa at the first corner and dropped to fourth. (Interestingly, the sand trap he bounced through last year has now been replaced with tarmac).
His Renault team have clearly made a step forward in performance for this round but seeing him on the front row of the grid after being 11th, 7th and 10th in the last three races it’s hard to avoid the impression he might be light on fuel.
Renault have done little to discourage this view – Pat Symonds saying after qualifying, “I don’t think it would be any secret to say that Fernando and Nelson are not on the same strategy.” This may be a very cunning double bluff, but more likely they are playing down expectations.
Alonso knows he is not a championship contender – and so do the two Ferrari drivers. If he puts up a big fight again going into the first corner, they might choose to take the long view and let him go.
Pressure on Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton was clearly surprised to be only fifth and a glance at the times shows why – he was just 0.038s behind Massa in third.
He simply cannot afford a repeat of his horror show start at Bahrain. From the clean side of the grid, his minimum requirement is to get past Robert Kubica and aim to profit from any tangled that might occur between the Ferraris and the fired-up Fernando.
Out of position
Two drivers look conspicuously lower on the grid than they should be.
Nico Rosberg is 15th on what looks like being a tough weekend for Williams, and David Coulthard failed to progress beyond the first part of qualifying and is 17th on the grid.
If either of these drivers want to be in with a chance of scoring points at a venue where overtaking is very tough, they will have to make some bold moves at the start.
How do you think the start will go?