We\'ll just go right ahead and say it: Our first-quarter report card for this predictions game is abysmal. Four GPs in, the average stands at 2.125 out of 5. Yes, we\'re claiming that 0.125. Formula 1 lap times are measured down to thousandths of a second, so we\'re entitled to three decimal places, too, thank you very much.
Not rounding off these sorry scores, however, does little to boost our standings. Therefore, we\'re using that highly convenient quiz-show privilege: phone-a-friend. And that friend is none other than Lotus F1 Junior Team member Marlon Stockinger.
Okay, we didn\'t really ring him up. But we ran into him the other day at the Globe Tattoo/Lotus F1 Team Simulator Challenge, and he gamely agreed to help us with the predictions for this weekend\'s Spanish GP.
1. We\'ll see wet patches this weekend. That\'s what our European-based F1 hopeful believes. \"Europe has had a long winter so far,\" he told us. \"There\'s a chance that it might rain in Spain.\"
He made this prediction on Thursday, and it rained during the first free practice on Friday. So, we think this actually entitles him to one point already. We\'re not pushing our luck, are we?
2. Kimi Raikkonen will be able to drink some champagne. \"I\'d say it wouldn\'t surprise me if Kimi finished on the podium, but maybe he won\'t win the race,\" Marlon said of his favorite driver. \"It could be possible, but it\'s hard to say because everyone has upgrades in Spain for the European leg.\"
He also guessed that the tire-conservation strength of Lotus will be neutralized in this race because the hard compound is one of the dry-rubber specs in allocation. \"With the harder tire, we don\'t have that much of an advantage simply because the tire is just more durable,\" the Lotus F1 junior team member explained. \"But as we have seen every race, the team has scored good, solid points. Even if it\'s not there in practice or qualifying, it\'s always there in the race. I know Lotus is always considered the underdog, but it should be considered a front-running contender.\"
3. Force India will sneak ahead of Mercedes in the race. This is our observation based on Friday practice. While the German outfit has the edge in qualifying, Force India put together some solid race-simulation laps on the medium-spec Pirellis. Races are won on Sunday and not on Saturday.
4. There won\'t be any McLarens in Q3. Disappointment for the Woking squad. It doesn\'t look like its upgrades are amounting to much; it has been outstripped by Force India as well as Toro Rosso at this moment. The McLaren drivers\' only chance of finishing the race in the top 10 is for some of the leading runners to encounter some trouble.
5. A Red Bull will achieve pole and victory. Maybe not necessarily the same Red Bull--one driver could take the top starting position, but the other could score the win. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber matched each other on their long runs; if they qualify next to each other, their team bosses will likely have trouble sleeping on Saturday night.
\"You can expect Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes to have some gains,\" Marlon said, and he\'s right. Ferrari\'s Fernando Alonso had very good long-run pace, too--even better than both the Red Bulls on paper, in fact. But that was also the case in Bahrain, and it didn\'t pan out for us when we tipped him for the win.
|ESP||Free Practice One||Free Practice Two|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)|
|1||Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)||1:25.252 (H)||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)||1:22.808 (M)|
|2||Felipe Massa (Ferrari)||1:25.455, +0.203 (H)||Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)||1:22.825, +0.017 (M)|
|3||Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:25.667, +0.415 (H)||Mark Webber (Red Bull)||1:22.891, +0.083 (M)|
|4||Romain Grosjean (Lotus)||1:26.042, +0.790 (H)||Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:23.030, +0.222 (M)|
|5||Adrian Sutil (Force India)||1:26.212, +0.960 (H)||Felipe Massa (Ferrari)||1:23.110, +0.302 (M)|
|6||Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:26.374, +1.122 (H)||Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:23.140, +0.332 (M)|
|7||Valtteri Bottas (Williams)||1:26.456, +1.204 (H)||Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:23.398, +0.590 (M)|
|8||Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:26.614, +1.362 (H)||Adrian Sutil (Force India)||1:23.840, +1.032 (M)|
|9||Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:26.621, +1.369 (H)||Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:24.058, +1.250 (M)|
|10||Paul di Resta (Force India)||1:26.755, +1.503 (H)||Paul di Resta (Force India)||1:24.104, +1.296 (M)|
|11||Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:26.940, +1.688 (H)||Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:24.175, +1.367 (M)|
|12||Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:27.061, +1.908 (H)||Jenson Button (McLaren)||1:24.306, +1.498 (M)|
|13||Sergio Perez (McLaren)||1:27.135, +1.883 (H)||Sergio Perez (McLaren)||1:24.854, +2.046 (M)|
|14||Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:27.250, +1.998 (H)||Valtteri Bottas (Williams)||1:24.888, +2.080 (M)|
|15||Pastor Maldonado (Williams)||1:27.576, +2.324 (H)||Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:25.167, +2.359 (M)|
|16||Giedo van der Garde (Caterham)||1:28.600, +3.348 (H)||Pastor Maldonado (Williams)||1:25.321, +2.513 (H)|
|17||Jules Bianchi (Marussia)||1:28.887, +3.635 (H)||Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:25.441, +2.633 (M)|
|18||Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham)||1:29.177, +3.925 (H)||Romain Grosjean (Lotus)||1:25.851, +3.043 (H)|
|19||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)||1:29.457, +4.205 (H)||Giedo van der Garde (Caterham)||1:25.963, +3.155 (M)|
|20||Mark Webber (Red Bull)||1:29.473, +4.221 (H)||Jules Bianchi (Marussia)||1:26.078, +3.270 (M)|
|21||Rodolfo Gonzalez (Marussia)||1:30.314, +5.062 (H)||Max Chilton (Marussia)||1:27.592, +4.784 (H)|
|22||Jenson Button (McLaren)||no time set||Charles Pic (Caterham)||1:28.081, +5.273 (M)|
Legend: H—hard compound; M—medium compound.
Photo by Mikko David