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Qualifying analysis - McLaren ripe to challenge Red Bull? 28 Aug 2010

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F10.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Renault R30 crashes in qualifying. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 28 August 2010

Changing weather conditions played havoc in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, especially in Q1 when it rained while some cars were still out on slick tyres. Q2 was dry, but the onset of rain again after the first runs in Q3 again made life difficult for the survivors. In the end Red Bull took their 12th pole position in 13 races, but McLaren ran them mighty close. We take a team-by-team look at the pre-race form…

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 45.778s, P1
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 46.127s, P4

Webber nailed it when it really mattered, finding a lot of extra speed on his first run of Q3 and subsequently being unable to improve as conditions deteriorated. Vettel’s problems began when he was last out in Q1 and only improved from 18th to a temporary third right at the last gasp. He admitted that he made a couple of mistakes at the start of his best lap in Q3, which explained why he was so much slower than Webber.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 45.863s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 46.206s, P5

Hamilton was very happy with his MP4-25’s performance in Q1 and Q2 (in which he was fastest), and a superb second run in Q3 saw him vault from fourth to second. Button made a mistake and lost time when it mattered on his first run, but still starts a promising fifth.

Renault
Robert Kubica, 1m 46.100s, P3
Vitaly Petrov, No time, P24

Kubica is happy with his Renault again, and not just because the new F-duct has worked right out of the box. The car has lost the nervousness it’s had at the last three races. But for a fuel pick-up problem at the end of his first Q3 lap, which prevented him going out again, he might have held on to P2. Petrov spoiled his chances by putting a wheel over a wet kerb on his out lap in Q1, and spinning ignominiously out.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 46.314s, P6
Fernando Alonso, 1m 47.441s, P10

This was a disappointing day for Ferrari, who have become used to better of late. Massa got a good first run in Q3, but aborted his second attempt after locking up on a wet patch. Alonso’s first run was poor as he saved his one set of new soft tyres for his second which, of course, was spoiled by the rain.

Williams
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 46.602s, P7
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 47.053s, P9

Yet again Williams looked strong, with clear top-10 runs for Barrichello - going into his 300th GP - and Hulkenberg. After struggling a little on set-up in practice, they nailed it when it mattered and are on target to close the gap to Force India by scoring further points.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 46.659s, P8
Vitantonio Liuzzi, 1m 48.680s, P14, will start P12

Sutil was lucky to get away with a gravelly moment when the rain hit in Q1, and got through by running intermediates. Q2 was a doddle, though, and he was very happy with eighth in Q3 as a top 10 start had been his aim. Liuzzi’s straight-line speed problems from Friday weren’t cured overnight and he lost all morning while the team pulled its aero system to pieces. That left him with poor balance in Q1 but he got through only to discover that his engine mapping wasn’t right for Q2, losing him crucial downforce. The good news at Force India, however, is that the blown diffuser that wasn’t used in the Hungarian race is now working really well.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 47.874s, P12, will start P14
Michael Schumacher, 1m 47.885s, P11, will start P21

Mercedes had a torrid time on their way to 11th and 12th fastest times, as Schumacher got his 10-place penalty from Hungary and dropped to 21st, and Rosberg lost five for a post-practice gearbox change. The latter got two places back through others’ penalties. Both blamed traffic and lack of grip for their failure to make the top 10, and later Buemi was penalised for impeding Rosberg.

Toro Rosso
Jaime Alguersuari 1m 48.267s, P13, will start P11
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 49.209s, P15, will start P16

Alguersuari has had Buemi tucked up all weekend. He qualified 13th and moved up two places when the Mercedes penalties were applied, but he said Q1 was a nightmare as he juggled tyres in the tricky conditions. Buemi was 15th initially, then 13th, then 16th after getting a three-place penalty for impeding Rosberg.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 50.980s, P16, will start P13
Jarno Trulli, 2m 01.491s, P18, will start P15

Kovalainen was on strong form and eventually gave Lotus its best new-generation starting position as others were given penalties. Trulli angrily declaimed all that he perceived to have gone against him, which included Di Grassi spinning after they collided in Q1. He was even less happy when he was fined 4400 euros for pit-lane speeding.

Virgin
Timo Glock, 1m 52.049s, P17, will start P20
Lucas di Grassi, 2m 18.754s, P23

For a while Virgin had its best-ever starting position as Glock qualified a fine 17th, then moved to 15th - one place ahead of Malaysia - until he got hit with a five-place penalty for impeding Yamamoto. Di Grassi spun in Turn 14 in Q1, and starts P23, so after all it was not such a good afternoon for the team.

BMW Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 2m 01.343s, P19, will start P17
Pedro de la Rosa, 2m 05.294s, P22

Even worse was BMW Sauber’s plight, as both Kobayashi and De la Rosa managed to slide off the road in Q1 in Turn Eight and took no further part in proceedings. Considering their speed earlier in the weekend, that was a disaster for an angry Peter Sauber.

HRT
Bruno Senna, 2m 03.612s, P20, will start P18
Sakon Yamamoto, 2m 03.941s, P21, will start P19

HRT could never have envisaged 18th and 19th starting positions, but they were quite happy to accept them as others got penalised. Among them was Glock, who impeded Yamamoto.

David Tremayne