If there was one lasting image from pre-season testing that summed up the winter, it was the sight of cars stopping left, right and centre. Reliability was a key concern and problem for all of the teams, particularly those powered by Renault.
What appears to have happened, however, is that Formula 1 has already thrown away the script.
The Renault power unit appeared, from the outside at least, to run as smoothly as could be wished for and, when in the hands of Daniel Ricciardo, was just as quick as the Mercedes works team cars during the wet qualifying session today.
The predicted outcome from qualifying was that most, if not all, of the Renault powered cars would be left stranded out on the circuit needing a change of power unit and a lift back to the pitlane before suffering a similar fate again on Sunday. There were even questions about what would happen if every car retired from the race on Sunday. Thankfully, this turned out to be anything but the case, even if both Lotus drivers did do their best to end their session early.
Ricciardo’s stunning Q3 lap, as stunning as it was, surprised a lot of people but, for me, his feat was overshadowed by the Toro Rosso duo making it through to the top 10 shoot out. The junior Red Bull of rookie driver Daniil Kvyat and the returning Jean-Eric Vergne shocked the established order by out-qualifying drivers like Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen.
Caterham seemed to put Friday’s issues behind them as Kobayshi managed to make it into Q2 at the first time of asking. New boy Marcus Ericsson managed only to set a lap time that was good enough for 20th place but, with the lack of Friday running, this was still an achievement for the Swede.
Hopefully this level of reliability will continue through to race day as there are some battles that will be very interesting to watch. Sebastian Vettel against all those ahead of him (having qualified down in P12), Toro Rosso vs Williams and Hamilton vs Rosberg are just a few that come to mind!
For now though, it would appear that all the manufacturers have created a power unit that can at least lap quickly. Horner’s comments suggesting that Mercedes would lap the field twice may have been slightly off the mark…
Image courtesy of Caterham F1/LAT Photographic.