F1 2013 Belgian Grand Prix Spa Qualifying Review and Race Preview
Paul di Resta had pole snatched from his grasp on a thrilling wet qualifying session.
Local Time: 2 PM (Belgium)
Podium Finish: Fernando Alonso @ 3.00 See the Latest Odds
TV: Sky F1 (UK), NBC (USA)
In a thrilling qualifying session, Paul di Resta’s hopes of a first pole position in F1 were cruelly destroyed by a Spa track that inexplicably improved in the latter stages of Q3.
It has appeared to be the case that Force India, who have been under fire for a string of poor qualifying decisions, had pulled one of the all-time great strategies by holding di Resta in at the start of Q3 when all the other teams where desperate to get their respective drivers out.
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At the time it appeared a massive gamble, rain wasn’t predicted for Q3 and even if it eventually came, the start of the session would always prove the best for any sort of slick running.
However, the rain came with such ferocity that the nine drivers that went out straight away began struggling for grip halfway through their out laps, quickly radioing in that intermediate tyres were to be the order of the day.
Di Resta, sitting patiently in his garage, had his Force India team sum up the situation beautifully, immediately sending out the Scotsman on a set of intermediates where he set a time that, as the rain continued to fall, appeared destined to bring him his first pole position.
Half-way through Q3 it seemed inevitable that no improvement was to come from any remaining laps, although Rosberg did appear to making a staggering amount of time compared to everyone else.
This then manifested itself into true recognition that the track was improving right at the death, with literally seconds ticking down when all nine drivers on track, for di Resta had long pitted content with his work, realised they could topple the time sheets.
Namely it was the two Red Bulls, whom everyone expected to be rightfully out front in the dry, who brought the immediate challenge with both Vettel and Webber contending to the end, landing up P2 and P3 respectfully.
But the surprise, or perhaps not considering he is now on a run of four consecutive pole positions for the first time in his storied career, was Lewis Hamilton’s successful bid right at the end that landed him the coveted P1. Having himself admitted, it was simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time, when the track was at its optimal best.
In some ways, there will be sympathy for di Resta, who seemed to have done a Nico Hulkenberg in Brazil 2010, where he too made the most of the conditions to surprise everyone for pole. Unfortunately, the way these weather conditions play out rings true to the incredible unpredictability of the situation. With four minutes left in Q3, no drive on the track really though they could capture pole for they would have assumed to smart risk taken by Force India had made it di Resta’s.
In the end, the rain didn’t dramatically shake up the grid. Surprisingly the opportunistic Fernando Alonso wasn’t able to make the most of his chances and will start from a lowly P9, his only comfort being that his immediate championship rival, Kimi Raikkonen, is only one position ahead in P8.
Despite the sluggish car, Jenson Button was able to make the most of the conditions and live up to his label of being the king of the changing conditions, finishing in P6 and even at one point threatening for the front row.
Yet the man most happy will definitely be Sebastian Vettel. He’s ticked a hat-trick of boxes that all championship leaders need to tick in the unpredictability of a rain soaked qualifying. First, make sure you’re in a respectable position on the grid and haven’t been caught out by the rain. Check. Second, make sure you’re ahead of your championship rivals. Mostly check. Third, make sure you’re well clear of Grosjean and Maldonado. Check.
Unfortunately for Vettel, the most direct threat might actually be posed by Webber, who’s been long believed to have forgone all team favours after the events in Malaysia.
It brings in the possibility of some serious on track tussle between the two, who have completely different motives going into Sunday’s race.
Again, at this point all the signs point to Red Bull, but we know that Mercedes is very fast, especially since they’ve fixed the majority of their tyre problems.
But degradation might not even be a factor in Spa tomorrow, considering the rain shows no signs of abating during the hours of F1 on the Sunday.
That throws the unknown back into the equation, making incredibly difficult for everyone in F1 to get some sort of idea of what exactly might unfold.
We don’t really know how these cars perform in the wet over the course of the race, as the only wet racing we’ve had all year have been the first few conservative laps of the Malaysian GP.
Raikkonen and Alonso will be the two to watch out for, stalking those ahead from the back end of the top ten. Alonso, especially, has these sort of situations custom made for his calculating and efficient style, and will probably somehow find his way on the podium.
But taking into account the weather, and the uncertainty that it creates it’s just too hard to get any conclusive read with any significant authority. All you can do is go on instinct and history, and Alonso has plenty of it.
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