Ferrari on the front row. Well, first and third. Good for them as the hometown team I suppose.
In fact Ferrari is a team in trouble and has threatened to concentrate on next year’s development if they don’t get a good result. Frankly no result is going to move them beyond an eventual 3rd place because they’re just too far behind. Also, that’s what they did last year and look where it’s got them.
It’s not only that the car isn’t fast, their engine is not reliable and almost every team that uses it, including Ferrari, is on their last one with 6 races to go (including this one). If you use any above the allotted 8 for the season there’s a 10 spot Grid penalty and starting position is very important in Formula One.
They’re not the only ones with engine problems, for some inexplicable reason Mark Webber from Red Bull has elected to race a used engine when almost every other team has switched to a new one. Not just that, but this engine has had 2 problems during the practice sessions and inexplicable because he has 2 spares. The reason this is significant is because Webber and Hamilton are the only ones with a realistic shot at the Drivers’ Championship and Red Bull and McLaren are only 1 point apart in the Team Championship.
The other technically interesting point is the dueling aero setups. Some drivers and teams have opted for a larger wing and are relying on F-Ducts to spoil the airflow over it to reduce drag on the parts of the track where you don’t need so much downforce. Everyone else is just going for a smaller wing all the way around which has the additional advantage of being lighter. You can see this play out on the McLaren team where Button, using the F-Duct, is starting 2nd and Hamilton, using the small wing, is starting 5th. Hamilton was a little squirrely during Qualifying.
All of the top ten are starting on Option (Soft) Tires that only have 2 or 3 laps on them, but they won’t last and because the field is so closely matched it’s unlikely that anyone is going to be able to gain enough of a lead to pit without losing position. This is somewhat of an advantage for Button who has shown an uncanny ability to tread (heh, heh, get it?) lightly on his tires, but were I a back marker like Schumacher or Petrov I’d start Primes and drive them into the ground.
Starting Grid and Standings below.