With Red Bull dominating as expected, the shock story of qualifying was Lewis Hamilton and the behind the scenes psychology that seemingly got the better of him on track.
There was no real indication as to why the former champion went off the boil so quickly – almost two and a half seconds off a top ten position. The only real clue to Lewis Hamilton’s distraction was his rather cool treatment at the hands of the Aussie police. Now more of a nanny state than our fair isle seemingly is, the official motive behind yesterday’s incident was to curb the rise of “hooning” i.e. performing a burn out, but sources inside the paddock are suggesting the directive may have come from a certain home favourite. This may be true, as some Aussies have ventured, whilst describing Hamilton in obligatory colourful language that the stretch of road was private, belonging as it does, to the Albert Park complex. Regardless, there will be series questions asked about the Brit’s performance earlier today.
Team mate Button landed fourth and was much happier within himself than he was two weeks ago, saying the car is more to his liking. He’ll be no doubt chuffed to royally out-perform Hamilton in the same machinery too. With the reigning champ’s renewed self-confidence and super 2009 campaign under his belt the chances of him being on the podium have to be pretty good.
Right at the front, the Bulls were quick. Vettel, with a qualifying lap that showed a beautiful mix of composure and seat of the pants driving, his Aussie team mate doing everything he possibly could to beat him, together brought their cars to the front of the grid with more than two tenths buffering nearest rival Fernando Alonso. Importantly, the RB6 has landed another shattering blow to the confidence of Ferrari et al, delivering untouchable results, reportedly on hard (aka slower) rubber.
From the way the grid looks, the race down under could follow a similar routine to that in Bahrain with Vettel scampering off leaving Alonso looking menacing and waiting to pick up the pieces from a Red Bull reliability issue while Massa wonders why he can’t keep up with the Spaniard and Webber wonders what he can possibly do about Vettel besides letting off a smoke-grenade at the first corner (a la Bahraini style)
Whatever happens we don’t want to see a Bahrain-like procession tomorrow – there’s a chance we will, but then there’s a far greater chance of a thriller at the more exciting (both from driver and spectator point of view) Albert Park track – what’s more, if the rain comes down as many predict then it could be an epic and deliver a completely unexpected result – who knows, maybe a Schumacher victory.
Rain is probably the seven times champion’s only way to make his big comeback anything more than an anticlimax – he was overshadowed by his team mate Nico Rosberg again this morning, albeit closer. If it were to rain then Schumacher may suddenly become a favourite. Watch this space.
In Fantasy Grand Prix, Vettel was clear favourite for Pole Position so going by that thinking, according to the 4000+ predictions, Vettel will win tomorrow with Alonso in 2nd and Hamilton in 3rd. Taking into account Lewis’ performance today we may want to substitute him for Jenson – what do all think – predictions now, after qualifying?
At the other end of the grid – Bruno Senna has reportedly said that “he aims to finish the race” tomorrow. Not quite the quote we ever hoped to attribute to the Senna name, but it’s early days for the hormonal Spanish team.