It’s hard to get much done in just a fifth of a second. That’s about as long as it takes to blink an eyelid. So you have to marvel that these are the incredibly narrow margins that make the difference between success and failure in Formula One today.
In the second part of qualifying for the European Grand Prix, just 0.218 seconds covered the top 11 drivers. That’s over a 5.419km lap that takes around 98 seconds to cover.
Fernando Alonso was at the wrong end of F1’s ultra-close competition in qualifying. The Ferrari driver ended Q2 in 11th, just the blink of an eye away from being quickest of all. He missed the cut for the final ten by just four-thousandths of a second.
It’s a reminder that when it comes to betting, the difference between winning and losing is closer than ever.
Vettel on course for Valencia hat-trick
Surprisingly, after Q2 had been so close, Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position by over three-tenths of a second. It’s the third year in a row he’s started at the front, and he’ll be looking for his third win in a row.
History suggests he has a very good chance; in the previous four races here the pole sitter has only failed to win once. Vettel’s odds on victory have shrunk to 1.9.
But this season has a habit of throwing up surprises. Last time out Vettel was beaten by Hamilton, with whom he once again shares the front row. Hamilton is priced at 4.5 to win.
Then there’s the question of the Lotuses, which have shown their usual excellent pace over a race stint in hotter conditions. Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen line up fourth and fifth. Both are priced at 9.00 to win and 11.00 to set fastest lap – they’re worth a look for both, though those odds have shortened from earlier in the week.
Kobayashi in with a shout
Sergio Perez has delivered Sauber’s best results so far this year, with podium finishes in Malaysia (second) and Canada (third).
This weekend it could be his team-mate’s turn to shine. Kamui Kobayashi has planted the C31 on the fourth row of the grid. Crucially, he is on the clean side of the track, which should allow him to get a good start.
Sauber have an excellent car over a race stint: Perez was flying in the closing stages in Canada. Like Lotus, they seem to thrive in hot conditions, which means they’re suited to Valencia.
Kobayashi had a superb run to seventh here in 2010, having started 18th. This time he starts seventh and promises to pay well if he finishes much higher, with odds of 12.00 for a podium and 60.00 for a win.
Button getting better
Jenson Button suffered a horrendous weekend in Canada, where he limped home a lapped 16th while team-mate Hamilton won.
He vowed to change his approach for this weekend’s race and test some set-up options from Hamilton’s car. It seems to have paid off – he was closer to his team-mate’s pace in practice and throughout qualifying. He only fell short with his final lap in Q3, ending up ninth on the grid.
But the big question is whether Button will be able to find the pace he’s lacked in the race. Even picking him at 5.50 to score a podium finish would be a little risky given his recent form.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.