This will be the first time that we will even see some of the cars on track and I expect that Friday will be far from ‘incident free’. The
Campos HRT cars will be rubbish, they will be at least five seconds / lap off the pace, or slightly faster than the Virgin cars, maybe. Lotus will be faster, but not by a great deal. Up at the front the McLaren and RedBull cars will be leading the way, much to the annoyance of everyone that has not got a ‘stalling’ rear wing or Adrian Newey on the design team. Ferrari and Mercedes will be close, but the infighting will somehow detract. Yes this is race one and there will be a lot of tension in the team.
The shock of the session with be Kamakazi sticking in a blindingly fast lap and overtaking an ‘on the limit’ Schumacher around the outside of turn 19 and heading the timesheets for a few minutes. Sauber may well prove to be the best of the rest at times on Friday, again much to the annoyance of many.
Qualifying on low fuel loads returns ! Some element of tire saving is necessary (ish) but in general qualifying will be all about putting in the absolute fastest lap that the car is capable of. The absolute, no excuses, fully optimized car driver is probably Vettel, on zero fuel, fresh tires and with the red mist fully descended I doubt that anyone is quicker. There are few car indications to go by, but if the Mercedes is as good as last years, then Schumacher could be alongside his countryman with Hamilton and Alonso battling over third and fourth.
The final car on the grid will be driven by a famous name, Senna, he will probably manage no more than a couple of average laps in qualifying before the ‘save the car’ order will come out and that will be it.
Sunday, race day.
With no refueling this year, the team that best judge the fuel usage will be the one that is able to run the lightest for the entire race by ensuring that the car uses its last drops getting back to the pits after taking the checkered. Massive fuel calculation and simulation is the order of the day, preferably with a known car and a known driver. Those that are new to their teams will carry more fuel than the known drivers. 10kg makes a big difference if you have to carry it for the entire race and this will be the situation for the lessor known entities.
Heavy, long wheelbase cars are not nimble, so the chances are that the first 2/3rds of the race will be super dull, stopping for sticky rubber somewhere around the 2/3rds mark and then we will have a proper race on. The last time we had no fuel stops was way back in 1993 when a certain German driver was able to make his fuel last again actually race the opposition. Some of the newer drivers may find it a little tough to manage their tires and their fuel, but the old dogs will be fine.
The race will be one of attrition, I doubt that much more than half the field will last beyond the halfway point.
Drivers to watch in the latter stages ?
Kamakazi – this guy is really, really fast and fearless, but he may not finish
Glock – the master of heavy cars
Alonso – subtle and fast and hungry
But, up front, Hamilton/Shumacher/Vettel are my picks.
3. Schumacher !
beyond that I have no idea
Alonso should be up there, Webber will be out in the first corner, Rosberg will be 8th, Senna will last ten laps, both Virgins will be out before half distance, HRT will be the first team packed up and out of the paddock before the races is done. Lotus may last beyond 1/2 distance. Force India will have at least one car in the points and Renault will pick up a couple of points.