Hungaroring, 27 July – Our two drivers had a different view of qualifying today: Fernando Alonso looked at his fifth place on the grid as a glass half full, while Felipe Massa, who will start directly behind his team-mate on the grid, from seventh place is more of a glass half empty guy tonight. The Spaniard saw positives in the fact that, he and his team-mate, working with the engineers, had managed to improve the car’s behaviour from Friday, but the Brazilian was frustrated that, despite not making any mistakes, he could not challenge for the front two rows.
Where both men agree is that tomorrow’s 70 laps of this demanding track will be tough on every element, be it man or machine. Even in cool conditions, this circuit never gives a driver a chance to pause for breath. So imagine what it will be like when all weekend, stepping out of the air-conditioned team hospitality has felt like opening the oven door to check that a roast dinner is cooking.
Both our battle-hardened drivers have enough experience to deal with whatever the race throws at them and, if you are not holding all the aces, then an unpredictable afternoon could work in favour of the F138. Clearly, the Prime Medium tyre will be expected to do the majority of laps and the teams have plenty of them, after almost all qualifying laps were done on the Softs, because of their extra turn of speed. At this track, keeping pit stops to a minimum is usually the best way to go, to avoid the inevitable traffic one can run into, because even on quicker newer tyres, overtaking is extremely difficult. However, tyre life will be one of several unknown factors tomorrow, so being flexible in terms of how many stops and when to make them is also an important aspect for tomorrow afternoon. At the moment, it would seem that if one wants to two stop, then starting on the Softs until pitting for Mediums around laps 15 and 45 might be the way to go, while three stoppers could opt to start on the Softs, then stop once again quite soon for another set of the same, with two more stops to run two sets of the Medium. Some drivers will choose to start on the Mediums, but that isn’t an option for the Ferrari men who, having made it into the top ten, must start on the Softs with which they qualified.
From a championship point of view, Fernando’s main concern is that series leader Sebastian Vettel will start his Red Bull from the front row, but on the outside of Lewis Hamilton who secured yet another pole for Mercedes. Romain Grosjean was third for Lotus, with Nico Rosberg completing Row 2 in the other Mercedes. Fernando finds himself on the inside of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Lotus, while Felipe has the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo on his outside.