Circuit de Catalunya: Free Practice 3 & Qualifying

Free Practice 3:

  • Ferrari: Big news overnight, the team was told that the new rear wing they tested yesterday (with a U-shaped cut out) could be declared illegal. The rest of the new components passed, but they have to run a standard rear wing. They were found to have extended the height of the rear wing using the slot gap regulator to increase it by 30mm. Alonso has an uncomfortable ride, calling the car ‘undriveable’.
  • Force India: Di Resta managed one extra lap than Sutil, but despite the world’s media focused on the German, the Scot can’t get past him.
  • Hispania: Liuzzi managed to split the Virgins, but Karthikeyan couldn’t get past Heidfeld (only posting slow out lap times) and d’Ambrosio. But they were both under 1:30. HRT have warned they would be prepared to lodge a complaint against the use of the blown diffuser.
  • Lotus: Have aims of breaking into Q2 today, but both drivers suffered from a ‘loose rear end’.
  • McLaren: Changes are made to their suspension to help with tyre management. But neither driver can get past Schumacher, a disappointing session for both.
  • Mercedes: Schumacher gets a decent time in on the options, but is no match for the might of RBR.
  • Red Bull: Webber has another strong showing, but Vettel nips out a gets ahead of his team mate with one hot lap, but not before a few problems. He has a few engine issues, which haven’t hampered their original plan to scale back running in this final practice.
  • Renault: Flames shoot out of the back of Heidfeld’s car, he stops and hops out unscathed. Renault report the cause as a crack in the exhaust pipe, although some are disputing this due to the volume of fire.
  • Sauber: Kobayashi kept the Ferrari’s in check for a while.
  • Toro-Rosso: Alguersuari was in an in-depth conversation with his race engineer before getting into the car.
  • Williams: They had a fairly quiet session, but both drivers had a trouble free session and were the top end of the midfield teams.
  • Virgin: Rather uneventful, and expected but Glock gets ahead of both Hispanias, d’Ambrosio just gets ahead of Karthikeyan and Heidfeld.

Top FP3 times:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:21.707
2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:21.791
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:23.057

Read: Full Results

Qualifying:

Again we start with (almost) everyone at the top of the hour, and we lose 7 each time before the pole position shoot out in Q3 with the final 10. Nick Heidfeld unfortunately didn’t manage to leave the pits, and will stay from the pitlane in tomorrow’s race. Quick check on Eddie Jordan, another boring shirt and he brought a mysterious folder with him during the pre-show. Inside was a surprise, race strategy from the late nineties with phrases and concerns still relevant today. And this being Eddie Jordan, it was from the 1999 Monza race, where his team claimed the top spot.

Q1 Liuzzi and Karthikeyan post the first times as they get out first in front of their team’s home crowd. The top teams go out on the harder compound in the first session to begin with, and it isn’t long until Red Bull go top (others overtook but they were fastest on primes). Kobayashi also goes out on the options, along with the Toro Rossos, and secures they all position for the next stage. Heidfeld waited patiently in his car as the team build the car around him but doesn’t leave the garage, Petrov gets himself onto the options to make sure he goes through in a car that seems to be going backwards. McLaren hold steady and stick to the primes, but Hamilton had an off track moment as he suffered from ‘massive understeer’ and was told to use his active differential to save the session. Barrichello is pushed out by di Resta, and has a gearbox problem. Trulli just squeezed in a fast lap with seconds to go, but didn’t join Kovalainen in Q2. Ferrari and Mercedes burn through a set of options unnecessarily, leaving them one set behind McLaren and Red Bull.

Out in Q1 are: TRU, BAR, GLO, LIU, KAR, DAM, HEI , but all are within the 107% rule. (Heidfeld didn’t set a time, but his times in practice secure his place on the grid).

Q2 Vettel goes out first and is followed by Webber on the option tyre, Vettel goes sub 1:22, but doesn’t use KERS. McLaren also go out on the options, but with KERS not working on Red Bull (worth about 0.5 seconds) and Button adrift by half a second, McLaren look a second slower. The midfield teams wait an age to get out, and most go out on the option tyre, Maldonado with something to prove does a great lap to get himself into Q1. Force India send their drivers out on the harder compound, an obviously decision to save the tyres for the race. Kovalainen gets himself into P15 for Sunday, a first for Team Lotus, but it leaves him without a fresh set which may prove the wrong decision. Ferrari buzz around in the background, Massa had a scary moment where if Kobayashi had a clean flying lap he would have been out in this session.

Out in Q2 are: BUE, PER, ALG, KOB, KOV, DIR, SUT.

Q3 Very quiet session overall, Red Bull and McLaren are the only ones to post times until the last minute. McLaren get out early on brand new options, they set good times, but Red Bull aren’t on a full charge yet. The tide of inevitability washes over the circuit as Vettel overtakes the British duo, surely another pole to add to his collection. Hang on a cotton pickin’ minute, Webber bangs in a stunner and gets ahead of his team mate by 0.2 seconds. Both pitting, a shot of Vettel’s garage shows his team changing his tyres, the question on everyone’s lips is, is he going to challenge Webber for pole? Sense prevails and he gets out of the car, going back out again would leave him vulnerable on the tyre front.

As Webber has secured pole position, and ended Vettel’s 100% record, it’s apparent that the 0.2 gap is less than the edge given by KERS. Had Vettel had his working, would he now be on pole instead? Given that Webber has had his share of KERS problems, it seems that Vettel (who set the majority of his poles with it working) is now in line for his share. Alonso puts in a fantastic lap which tucks him inbetween the tiny gap between the McLarens (and finally qualifies higher than P5), but Massa is seriously off pace and manages P8. Schumacher pulls a fast one and just goes out on the hard tyres, Rosberg doesn’t but only gets P7. Maldonado goes out for a lap and returns to save his tyres, and Petrov flies the only flag for Renault and gets P6 for his efforts.

Top Qualifying times:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:20.981
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:21.181
3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:21.961

Read: Full Results

Circuit de Catalunya 2011 Polesitter Mark Webber (photo credit: Vladimir Rys/ Getty Images)

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