This morning’s final free practice at the Nurburgring was the usual fight between Mercedes and Red Bull Racing — it looks like qualifying will be the usual scrap between Mercedes and Vettel too.
Whilst the Mercedes’ qualifying pace is impressive, their race trim setup always lets them down, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg usually struggling early on in the race.
Ferrari seems to suffer the complete opposite, their cars are not qualifying as well as they’d like, but their race trim is allowing them to make up for it during the race. After capitalizing on the retirement of championship leader Vettel last week, Fernando Alonso really needs to follow it up if he wants to stay in contention.
Did anyone notice the German World Champion yesterday saying he couldn’t have got close to Mercedes’ P1 pace, but this morning in P3 he smashed everyone with a lap nearly seventh-tenths faster than second-place man Rosberg? Hmm, were Red Bull sandbagging?
Rosberg had held the quickest time of 1m 30.193s until Vettel banged in his blistering lap in the dying minutes, leaving his rivals all scratching their helmets.
So as predicted, a Mercedes is up front with two Red Bulls, followed by a happier Alonso and Felipe Massa in forth and fifth. The Lotus cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean slotted into their familiar top-eight spots.
What about the second Mercedes? Hamilton suffered rare handling problems and just couldn’t hook up his car like teammate Rosberg — unusual for the Englishman as he is usually flying at the front when it comes to setting hot laps.
Expect pretty much the same for qualifying, although one to watch will be Hamilton to see if he can overcome his handling issues.