Category Archives: Race Predictions

This category includes posts about race and qualifying predictions based on recent performances of certain drivers and the upcoming tracks.

Will We Finally See a Repeat Winner in Valencia?

Qualifying in Valencia saw Sebastian Vettel soar to the top of the time sheets, creating a gap of over three tenths of a second to Lewis Hamilton, who will start the race alongside Vettel. By 2012 standards, three tenths of a second is quite a large gap, and F1 fans were reminded of Vettel’s dominance over qualifying in 2011.

Vettel dominated qualifying in Valencia, putting himself three tenths ahead of Hamilton

Now that the grid is set, fans are left to wonder whether or not we will see the first ‘repeat-winner’ of 2012. So far, we’ve seen seven different drivers win the first seven races, and it seems more likely than ever that we will see the first driver to notch two victories to his name this weekend. The first three drivers on the grid have already won races. The other winners, however, are further back on the grid. Nico Rosberg qualified in sixth place, Jenson Button in ninth, Fernando Alonso in eleventh, and Mark Webber all the way back in 19th position due to a DRS failure. The most ‘likely’ drivers to claim their second victory are Vettel, Hamilton, and Maldonado in first, second, and third positions respectively. I use the word ‘likely’ with caution, because as always in F1, race results are determined by much more complex factors than the qualifying results.

A DRS issue left Mark Webber in 19th position on the grid

 

Red Bull have been somewhat disappointed with their race pace, highlighted by Mark Webber’s comments after Friday practice. They have run well in the heat before, such as in Bahrain, but they seem to be lacking a little bit of long-distance pace. If this truly is a problem, Vettel must pull out an early lead in the first stint, and may want to use the soft tires for as long as possible. Spending too much time on the harder tires could create problems for Red Bull.

 

 

Lewis Hamilton should be a strong contender this race, given his relatively strong pace during practice sessions. McLaren seemed more confident than the Red Bull concerning their long-distance pace. However, during the post-qualifying press conference he clearly stated that he was aware of the pace capable of both Lotus and Ferrari. With two Lotus cars in the top 5 positions on the grid, they must be considered contenders for victory. If we look at the performance of Lotus in Bahrain, we see that Raikkonen started the race in eleventh place and eventually found his way up to second, in front of the second Lotus car, which Romain Grosjean drove from seventh on the grid to third place.

Hamilton seemed especially wary of the two Lotus cars in fourth and fifth positions

During the past month, Lotus have been trying to improve their qualifying performances. They’ve achieved their best result in Valencia since the Spanish Grand Prix three races ago. With a strong qualifying performance and the very hot track temperature playing into their favor, Lotus are in a very strong position from which they can challenge for victory. Personally, my money is on Grosjean for the race win. If Grosjean is able to stick with the leaders at the beginning of the race, he has the potential to put on a very strong late-race charge, as Raikkonen did in Bahrain.

 

Given Red Bull’s possible race pace issues, the race could possibly come down to a battle between Hamilton and Grosjean, and possibly Kimi Raikkonen as well. Given Lotus’ consistent pace throughout the weekend, and Hamilton’s wariness of their speed, I believe that a Lotus driver will be standing on the top step of the podium tomorrow. Then again, this is 2012. Heikki Kovalainen could win tomorrow, for all I know.

 

Hell, maybe even Kovalainen could win one this season!

 

 

 

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Hungarian Grand Prix Qualifying

Many thought that the Hungarian Grand Prix would be the race when Red Bull did not secure pole position, but Sebastian Vettel has once again claimed the top spot with a time of 1:19.815. Vettel was one of two drivers to get into the 1:19’s, the other being Lewis Hamilton. Jenson Button finished third behind his team mate.

Behind the two Mclarens came the Ferraris of Massa and Alonso. Massa must be satisfied as he out qualified his team mate for the first time this year, even by a miniscule margin of 0.015 seconds. Massa has shown a recent increase in pace, and competitiveness. Both he and Ferrari must be pleased to see that he is able to keep up with Alonso. This increase in pace has many wondering if Massa never fully returned to his pre- 2009 incident in Hungary, and is now finally beginning to return to that 2007-2008 Massa form.

Massa will start one spot ahead of Alonso tomorrow.

Webber finished in 6th position, sandwiching the McLarens and Ferraris between the two Red Bulls. Webber had DRS issues in qualifying. He also complained of cold tires, which could be the reason for his lack of pace. He should not be in a position to challenge for the victory tomorrow.

Difficult session leaves Webber 6th

Behind Webber is Nico Rosberg, and Adrian Sutil will start next to him on the fourth row. Force India have made a major step forward and are looking like they will secure themselves at the front of the midfield, ahead of Sauber, Williams, and Toro Rosso.

Force India have made clear improvements

Schumacher qualified ninth in the second Mercedes, ahead of Sergio Perez. The Mexican driver did a good job of getting into Q3, but decided to not set a flying lap and save himself a set of tires. He is in a great position to score solid points tomorrow. Behind Perez was di Resta, who was 2.5 tenths slower than his team mate Sutil. Behind di Resta is Petrov in 12th, Heidfeld in 14th, with Kamui Kobayashi splitting them in the second Sauber. Kobayashi will surely be looking to overtake a few cars in front to land himself in the points.

Perez managed to make Q3, but did not run to save tires

Williams had an unsuccessful day with Rubens Barrichello 15th and Maldonado 17th, both with technical difficulties during the day. The first Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguesauri split them. Sebastian Buemi did not make it into Q2, and will start 17th on the grid. He also faces a 5-place grid penalty for his collision with Nick Heidfeld last week, moving him back to 23rd on the grid.

Collision with Heidfeld will cost Buemi 5 grid spots

Behind him are the Lotuses of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli. Lotus has just fixed the power steering in their car, and Trulli says it is now “much better,” complaining that he “could not feel the car” without it. If Lotus had a KERS system, I could see them making it into Q2. They are clearly the strongest of the “new” teams, and next season will be hoping to climb up to the “midfield” group.

Jarno Trulli improved in his updated car

Timo Glock is in the first Marussia Virgin, followed by Tonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo in the HRT cars, with Jerome d’Ambrosio taking up the rear in the second Marussia Virgin racer. There should be an interesting scrap between these four during the race tomorrow.

Daniel Ricciardo will be happy to have qualified close to his team mate

Who’s looking good for the race tomorrow? Vettel, as always, will be competitive. However, Hamilton looks like he is in a great position to challenge for victory. He did not go on the super soft compound in Q2, meaning that he has one set of brand new option tires, while the rest of the top 10 only have the set that they qualified on. This fresh set of tires gives Hamilton a great advantage in terms of strategy, but anything can happen during the race tomorrow.

Can a fresh set of Super Softs help Hamilton challenge for victory?

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Hungarian Grand Prix Predictions

We’ve had four different winners in the past four Grand Prix as we enter the second half of the 2011 F1 season. Jenson Button in Canada, Sebastian Vettel in Valencia, Fernando Alonso in Britain, and Lewis Hamilton in Germany just last week.

Who looks strong heading into Hungary? At this point in the season it really is tough to determine which of the top three teams has the strongest car at the moment. One thing is for sure, Ferrari and McLaren have made much more progress during the mid-season than Red Bull have. Ferrari and McLaren have improved their competitiveness from the beginning of the season by incredible amounts. Of course, there have been stellar drives from Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, and Lewis Hamilton, but Felipe Massa is looking very strong. Although he hasn’t won a race, he has been able to match the pace of the other front runners. This shows he is comfortable and confident in the performance of his Ferrari, evidence of the Italian team’s recent improvements.

Mark Webber has also shown recent strength in his own performance. He has secured pole position in the last two races, and has been looking more competitive relative to his team mate Vettel in the past races. He finished a race in front of Vettel for the first time last week, which must give him a confidence boost. If he wants any chance of securing the title, he must convert pole positions into victories. One can secure as many poles as one would like, but the only order that matters is at the end of the race.

The increase in performance from numerous different parties in the sport makes it hard to guess who will be strong in Hungary. I have to guess it will be one of the Red Bulls or Fernando Alonso. Hamilton had good pace in Germany, but the colder temperatures suit the McLaren. We can look back on Valencia and see how much the heat troubles the silver cars. Stefano Domenicali claimed that the weather in Germany provided the “worst possible” conditions for Ferrari. The increase in heat may provide a slight advantage to the Maranello squad.

Within Red Bull, it is hard to decide. Webber has decisively out qualified Vettel in the past two races, and it will be interesting to see if he can do the same this weekend. In terms of race pace, they seem to be tight. It seems there is not much between the two Red Bull racers.

If I had to guess the podium for Sunday’s race, I would have to say Vettel, Alonso, Webber. Hopefully the practice sessions tomorrow and qualifying on Saturday will give us more information as to who is running well in Hungary.

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