Describing Red Bull’s qualifying performance as dominant doesn’t do it justice. They were mesmerisingly quick- embarrassingly so for their rivals- and confirmed once again that the RB6 is the quickest car in this year’s world championship. The question on everyone’s lips now is can they be beaten?
Taking a look back at the history of the Spanish Grand Prix suggests this one’s already a nailed on Red Bull victory. Since the Spanish Grand Prix made this circuit its home in 1991 the race has only once been won by a driver starting from below 2nd position. In fact- and this will give Mark Webber some confidence- the polesitter has won the previous nine races at the Circuit de Catalunya. The statistics are stacked very firmly in Red Bull’s favour.
But records are there to be broken, and whilst Red Bull’s rivals will be disheartened they certainly won’t have given up hope of beating the Mark and Sebastien tomorrow. The fact that Red Bull were so blindingly quick in qualifying is ominous, but we know that their rivals have been closer to them in terms of race pace so far this season. Red Bull will almost certainly be the quickest cars on the track tomorrow but they won’t have the second a lap advantage they had in qualifying. The McLarens of Button and Hamilton, as well as Alonso in the Ferrari, will look to hold on to them as much as possible early on and keep the pressure on.
But that’s not honestly the most likely way Red Bull will be beaten. If anything it would be rain that would mix things up and make the result far from certain. Despite its mega pace in dry conditions the Red Bull doesn’t hold the same advantage in the wet. The Red Bull drivers- Vettel in particular- are top wet-weather drivers, but when the track has been damp this season their pace hasn’t been quite so dominant.
More importantly than that rain just mixes things up. It throws up a greater chance of safety car periods and makes off-track excursions more likely; it can panic the teams on the pitwall and lead to rash decisions. That would give the other teams a sniff at victory. The two wet races this season- Australia and China- have both been won by McLaren’s Jenson Button, and if it did rain tomorrow he’d surely have a decent shot. However it’s Lewis Hamilton, starting 3rd and with an undeniable knack for driving in the wet, who’d present the Red Bulls with the greatest threat. Showers are a possibility tomorrow, so perhaps the result isn’t as clear cut as it might seen.
Red Bull are also less than bulletproof in terms of reliability. Vettel lost victory in Baharin with a spark plug problem, and retired from the lead in Australia when he was struck by technical problems. They’ve looked fine in the last two races but with upgrades on the car you can’t be sure. Red Bull’s rivals will be hoping the gremlins creep in
Webber is slightly prone to losing his head when things are going perfectly for him. Rash overtaking attempts and mistakes can slip in to his game, and if Vettel beats him in to turn one- as he did in Malaysia- Mark could get a little frustrated. He’ll be hoping to control this one from the front.
So what’s the most likely non-Red Bull win scenario? It’s got to be rain. The car is too quick to be beaten on pace and whilst a technical problem for one car is possible chances are we won’t see both break down tomorrow. Wet conditions will throw things up in the air, and that would be the best chance of a Hamilton or an Alonso winning.
But if it’s dry we can’t look past a Red Bull victory. Their car’s downforce is mighty at this circuit, and with a quality pair of drivers in the cars the team will be feeling pretty confident tonight. Of course this is Formula One- anything can happen- but it’s going to take more than a few tweaks of the front-wing to allow anyone but a Red Bull driver to stand atop the podium tomorrow afternoon. The real question now is whether it’ll be Webber or Vettel who will reign in Spain.