So, who’s found time to catch up with yesterday’s qualifying? It was, for those prepared to sacrifice some late summer sunshine, quite a session. Less for the result itself — Hamilton and Button on the front row — more for the background of paddock gossip against which it had to fight for our attention.
For the second weekend on the trot everyone is talking about Lewis Hamilton. This time it’s not his increasingly random Twitter and Instagram feeds. No more hiphoddities or proprietary telemetries, just wistful snaps of ElHam doing some free-climbing last winter. But also no sign of a flat denial that he might be driving a Mercedes next year, something Sunday Afternoon Club has been saying for some time. Oh yes, well before EJ waded in.
We think it is more likely than not and yes, we know all the arguments why he should not. We just think Lil’ Lewie’s management don’t necessarily put having a car capable of winning the world championship on the top of its list of requirements.
Interesting though, with all this business going on, that Mercedes looked better yesterday than it has in a long time, Michael Schumacher starting fourth, Nico Rosberg sixth. Last week, the team claimed it had ‘done a Button’ and had spent too much time chasing a dead-end set-up and yesterday was saying it could even win today. They have not done that all season, even when Nico started on pole in China. It’s almost as if they’re trying to convince Hamilton of something.
Michael and Nico’s start positions are boosted by the fact that Paul di Resta qualified fourth, but takes a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change (and by the way we are with Martin Brundle on this one, these mechanical penalties aren’t good for the sport). Anyhow, it was a fantastic performance from Di Resta who had been starting to look less impressive than team mate Nico Hulkenberg (who starts last after a mechanical in Q1).
Di Resta of course was favourite for the second Mercedes drive should Michael do the decent thing and make way for someone younger (or was favourite before the Lewis rumour started). Of course if Lewis does go to Mercedes, then there will be a seat at McLaren. And then there’s Ferrari. Even after Massa nailed his best qualifying session of the season with a third place start, he’s surely not going to be employed at Ferrari next season. Hulkenberg’s name was in the frame there earlier this week, and Di Resta won’t have done his chances any harm at all with that drive.
Ferrari promised to do something special in qualifying and spent the last practice session yesterday rehearsing some pretty darn cool-looking slipstreaming teamwork. Come Q3 however, it didn’t really happen. Well not for Fernando Alonso anyhow, who starts tenth. I guess it’s no surprise that Alonso was able to boost Massa to third, but Massa could only hinder Alonso to tenth. Seldom has the team looked so one-sided.
Alonso will most likely leave Italy and the 2012 European F1 season behind still leading the championship, as Red Bull again looked unconvincing, Sebastian Vettel starting fifth and Webber in the pack having not made Q3. He doesn’t look like a winner right now, and Alonso should score points from tenth. Then again, with so much action going on off-track, the world championship barely seems the priority this weekend, once again, it’s all about Lewis. Maybe he can show us why it deserves to be this afternoon. That would be nice.