The qualifying sessions for the Chinese Grand Prix have confirmed what we already knew: Michelin’s wet tire has an advantage over Bridgestone’s. With the track very wet from the start and then drying slowly and in patches, the Bridgestone runners were in trouble. Of them all, only Michael Schumacher managed to squeeze into Q3.
He then put the Ferrari into sixth spot on the grid, almost a superhuman feat, given the disadvantage of the tires. Whatever we think of him as a man, there is no doubting his driving skills.
It was Michelin’s day, however, and they made the best of it. The Renaults were the class of the field, easily grabbing the front row, Alonso on pole. Perhaps surprisingly, the Hondas were next up with Barrichello third and Button fourth. Their times were identical but the Brazilian set his before Jenson and so goes ahead.
Then came the McLarens, sandwiching Michael. Raikkonen did very little running until Q3, perhaps confident that he could get the time when he needed it. And, although Pedro de la Rosa spun his McLaren into some elegant manouvers off-track, he will be sufficiently close to his teammate to support him in the race.
The BMW Saubers were next up, Heidfeld ahead of Kubica, and tenth spot was claimed by Robert Doornbos – an excellent effort for his first race for Red Bull.
Now thoughts turn to the race, of course, and that means the weather. The meteorologists seem a little confused and some are predicting dry conditions, others opt for rain. All we can say for sure is that, if it rains, the Renaults will win. If it turns out dry, they will still be in with a very good chance but Michael and Kimi are not likely to make it easy for them.
Highlight of qualifying? That has to be Scott Speed in his Toro Rosso – for a few minutes it looked as though he would make it into Q3. And his time in Q2 would have put him in seventh spot, had he been able to repeat it. As it is, he starts from eleventh – not a bad effort at all.