In all the excitement of the McLaren and Hamilton apologies, we are forgetting that the cars have been running and that today they will go out and qualify for the Grand Prix. So what is the state of play here in Sepang.
Well yesterday the Brawns were not dominant, even though every one expects them to be later today and tomorrow. The feeling is that they have between three tenths and half a second on the field, depending on which tyre they are on and set up.
Yesterday Jenson Button wasn’t too happy with the balance of his car in the high speed corners, the front tyres were not biting and he felt understeer. They will dial that out for today, I’m sure. Still the teams has done very little low fuel running to optimise the set up for qualifying 1 and 2.
Toyota look quite quick here and I think it will be between them, Red Bull (Webber, as Vettel has a 10 place penalty), Williams and Ferrari for the top ten spots on the grid. BMW looked slow yesterday, especially Heidfeld, who was not running KERS, but I think at least one of them will get in the top ten today.
These teams are all very close on pace so it will come down to the individual driver’s performance on the day. Alonso may well get himself in there, because he’s Alonso and he knows all the tricks and because one of the front runners may drop the ball, as Nakajima did in Melbourne.
As for Vettel, watch out for him being very fast in Q3, with a view to an aggressive first stint in the race. he cannot do the same things as everyone else because it won’t get him anywhere. He has to use a strategy option called ‘game theory’ which is all about setting expected outcomes and then seeing what other possible outcomes there are if your change variables, like what lap you stop on and what tyres you start with. If you want to know more about this, there is an article elsewhere on this site where Renault’s Pat Symonds explains it.
Symonds used it for Nelson Piquet last year in Germany, where he got a podium and almost won the race, from deep in the second half of the grid.