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Brazilian Grand Prix 2016: Conclusions from qualifying

Brazilian Grand Prix 2016: Conclusions from qualifying
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Will it rain on Nico’s parade?
The most important moment of Nico Rosberg’s weekend – and, who knows, maybe even his year – will occur when the world championship leader pulls back the curtains in his hotel room on Sunday morning and peers out to discover whether the forecast bad weather has arrived in downtown Sao Paulo.

“There is only one guy who will wake up tomorrow disappointed if it is raining and that is Nico Rosberg,” summarised Sportsclubsociety F1’s Paul di Resta after qualifying. “The rest of them will think ‘game on, let’s go racing’.”

And that includes pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton. Although the reigning world champion has maintained a consistent, if slender, advantage over his team-mate all weekend, the size of Mercedes’ overall advantage, standing at over half a second in qualifying, means that Hamilton, even if he wins, can only realistically expect to cut seven measly points out of Rosberg’s 19-point lead if it stays dry.

Qualifying Report: Hamilton on pole

And Rosberg, as Hamilton will know only too well, just needs to finish both of the final two races in second place to win the championship.

Rain may be his best friend in his quest to remain world champ.

Wolff’s call falls on deaf ears
The other ally in Hamilton’s quest may prove to be the two Red Bulls despite the best efforts of his boss, Toto Wolff, to keep Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo well away from the title fight.

“I just want to have a great season finale and no controversy because of another car causing a collision and being blamed for having interfered in the championship,” Wolff told Sportsclubsociety F1 when called upon to explain his call to Verstappen’s father, Jos, about the Dutch teenager’s driving.

Toto Wolff calls the Verstappens

Given that Verstappen did bang wheels with Rosberg as recently as the Mexican GP, Wolff perhaps had a point. But given that Verstappen junior has already repeatedly ignored the advice of his peers, it’s questionable just how likely it was that the Mercedes boss’ plea would have the desired effect.

“I was next to my dad when he called,” said Verstappen. “He went outside, I was watching TV and didn’t want to be disturbed.”

Teenagers.

Renault power still lags behind
While 2016 hasn’t seen the public criticism of the Renault power unit by Red Bull that 2015 saw (perhaps because it’s badged as TAG), the long drag from Turn 12 to the finish line in Brazil has underlined how far off the pace the French firm still are.

Verstappen told Sportsclubsociety F1 after qualifying they needed “at least 50 horsepower” more to be able to challenge at the front.

And it is reflected in the sector times. Through the twisty middle sector Verstappen is third quickest and Daniel Ricciardo fourth, with only the two Mercedes cars quicker.

However, in the final sector, which is effecitvely a blast up the hill, Red Bull slip behind not only Mercedes, but Ferrari, Williams, Haas, Force India and Manor in the sector times.

Clearly there is still a lot of work to do then on the French power unit.

Raikkonen is the man in form at Ferrari
Winter is coming for the 2016 season but the Iceman is currently enjoying an Indian summer. Raikkonen has beaten Vettel in each of the last four qualifying sessions and has taken their score for the year as a whole to 10-10. Is he back? 

Williams’ day could have been worse
They may have missed out on Q3, when both of their Force India rivals reached the top 10, but at least they missed out on a collision with an umbrella…

Palmer proving his worth
The leery lock-ups were hard to ignore but don’t linger too much on Jolyon Palmer’s messed-up flying lap in the final minute of Q2. The fact that he was there at all was the point to stress. Once again, Palmer had reached the second round of qualifying while his team-mate was taking an early bath.

True to his reputation of being a late developer, Palmer is coming on strong at the end of 2016, out-qualifying Kevin Magnussen in six of the last 11 F1 Saturdays. Whatever the detail in their contract negotiations with Renault, Palmer is entitled to believe he he has been retained on merit.

Haas like it cold
Romain Grosjean admitted his Haas team never thought they would reach Q3 in Brazil. Seventh on the grid is somewhat of a shock after their struggles in the USA and Mexico, where the newbies looked just like newbies rather than the team that turned heads with their early season performances.

“We were not expecting to get to Q3, we didn’t have a plan before qualifying to get to Q3,” said Grosjean.

“Clearly we need to improve when it is warm, but when it is cold and grey like today we are going pretty quick.”

Brazilian GP TV times

If their performance is weather dependent then heading to the desert next probably doesn’t bode well for the Frenchman. But he can at least take solace that his brakes seemed to work better following the switch from Brembo to Carbon Industries.

“The feel was a bit better. Still not perfect on some places, but getting there so a lot positives for the future,” he added.

Having scored just one point since June’s Austrian GP, the cool conditions expected on Sunday could give Grosjean the chance to give the team a timely reminder of his talents following the signing of Magnussen.

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