Vettel takes pole but Button looking good
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took his 3rd career pole at Istanbul Park today after dominating qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix. The young German beat Jenson Button by just over a tenth of a second, with Rubens Barrichello and Mark Webber on row 2. Toyota’s Jarno Trulli gave the Japanese manufacturer a boost by ending the session an impressive 5th, ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and much-fancied Felipe Massa. Alonso, Rosberg and Kubica rounded out the top 10.
On face value, you must think it looks good again for Vettel, aiming to take his 2nd win of the season. He has never lost in both previous occasions that he has started from the front, and the Red Bull looks sharp once again. But that’s without considering other factors. The fuel loads show Vettel is the lightest of the main contenders, with team mate Webber the heaviest with about 2 or 3 laps more fuel onboard. Fuel-corrected pole goes to Button, who was a lap heavier than Barrichello. Trulli and the Ferraris are pretty heavy, with Raikkonen heavier than Massa (which certainly shuts up those who were tipping Massa for a fourth straight Turkish win), but they are probably out of contention for the win.
Tyres will be key tomorrow. It seems the main contenders are all going for a 2 stop strategy, so it’ll be who preserves the tyres the best that’ll triumph. And given that we know the Brawn is far easier in its tyres and Button is one of the smoothest drivers on the grid, it’s easy to conclude that he’s hot favourite for a 6th win from 7 in 2009. The interesting battle may be the one for 2nd. Barrichello is only 1 lap heavier than Vettel, but Webber is heavier than both. But Mark could have to deal with Raikkonen who is directly behind him, although there is a short run-up to turn 1 and it seems both are on the dirty side of the grid (although in his post-quali statement, Mark said he was starting on the right and thus clean side). If Kimi gets ahead of him at the start, his chances of a podium are all but over.
So here’s my prediction for tomorrow’s race:
1) J Button – Brawn-Mercedes
2) R Barrichello – Brawn-Mercedes
3) S Vettel – Red Bull-Renault
4) M Webber – Red Bull-Renault
5) K Raikkonen – Ferrari
6) J Trulli – Toyota
7) F Massa – Ferrari
8) N Rosberg – Williams-Toyota
Disclaimer – based on no safety cars, no crashes and no mechanical failures (otherwise Webber would be guaranteed to fail and Heidfeld would be in the points)