Brazilian GP - A normal qualifying for a special race
Interlagos, 24 November – Fernando Alonso will start the Brazilian Grand Prix and head off to cover the last 305.909 kilometres of this season from seventh place on the grid. His Scuderia Ferrari team-mate, Felipe Massa will start from fifth. Unusual? Surprising? No, not really, as these positions are roughly what one would expect given the hierarchy down the order at the moment. Felipe is clearly on great form, having already out-qualified his team-mate last Saturday in Texas and obviously, he is something of a specialist at his home track where he has won twice before. On top of that, the Spaniard’s car did not seem to be as well sorted as the Brazilian’s for this afternoon’s session. And given that Fernando has qualified eighth or lower no less than eight times this season, you could call this a normal qualifying. Yes, eighth, because in fact, the Spaniard set the eighth fastest time in Q3 this afternoon, but once Pastor Maldonaldo was given a 10 place penalty for not stopping his Williams at the weighing scales, this promoted Fernando to seventh – an extra place and a switch to the clean side of the track, which has a sense of déjà vu after Austin exactly one week ago. Possibly more surprising is that the man leading the Drivers’ classification, Sebastian Vettel, has failed to make it to the front row for the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix, not counting the penalty that saw him start from the pit lane in Abu Dhabi.
Lewis Hamilton took his seventh pole position of the season to put him first in the 2012 Qualifying ratings. Joining the Englishman on the front row is his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. With Fernando’s only title rival Sebastian Vettel fourth in the Red Bull, on the outside of Row 2, alongside his third placed team-mate Mark Webber, it makes for a very uncertain outcome or at the very least, an unpredictable start to this season’s twentieth and final Grand Prix.
You don’t need to be a race strategy genius to work out that, with Felipe starting one row behind the German but with the advantage of being on the clean side of the track, the Brazilian will be doing all he can to help his team by getting ahead of Vettel on the run down to the first corner, not to mention the fact that the Paulista is keen to give his own fans something to cheer about. One can never predict what happens when the lights go out, but Fernando’s first task will be to dispense with sixth placed Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India.
The rain that gave us a little prelude just before qualifying today is due to reach more substantial levels tomorrow and then, all bets are off. History at Interlagos would suggest that the 2012 World Championship will end with high drama: there have been times when that Brazilian drama has played out in favour of the Prancing Horse and others when it has gone against us. It’s in the lap of the gods.