AdrianSutil wrote:I think Mercedes will be a dark horse for Melbourne. And all cars will qualify...
In an interview for the BBC Hamilton also referred to Mercedes as a potential dark horse, since he felt that Mercedes had a very low key testing strategy this year that suggested they might have more pace up their sleeves. If there are mixed weather conditions in Melbourne, it might also play into the hands of Mercedes as they were one of the few teams to rack up some mileage in Barcelona when there was a rain shower - plus the W03 has looked like a pretty reliable car compared to the W02. There are also some interesting rumours that Mercedes have developed a front wing F-duct which can operate in conjunction with their DRS, so they might be more of a threat in qualifying.
What will have a greater influence on the championship is whether Mercedes can sustain or improve upon their form throughout the season - they pretty much held position last year for most of the season, and compared to McLaren and Red Bull they probably don't have quite the same level of resources.
As for qualifying, the fact that HRT and Marussia have at least been able to carry out a shakedown should help, and if they are able to rack up a reasonable amount of mileage in the practise sessions then they should probably have enough set up data to make it within the 107% limit. One change this season might make it a touch harder though - the performance difference between tyre compounds is supposed to be smaller this year, and Pirelli are bringing the soft and medium tyres to Australia (i.e. no gap in compound type). That means that the front runners should drop less time on the harder compounds in qualifying, so in theory it should be a little trickier to reach the threshold.
What might be more problematic could be simply getting to the finish - reliability could be an issue due to the lack of testing, so I wouldn't be surprised if either HRT or Marussia rack up at least one DNF, and perhaps a double DNF, due to mechanical problems.
On another note, the FIA have recently released a quick question and answer session with Charlie Whiting that reveals another subtle change in the regulations - the race stewards will be able to start investigating an on track incident without having to notify Whiting first.
http://www.fia.com/en-GB/mediacentre/pr ... cw-qa.aspx
Q: Race stewards will now be able to investigate an incident without first reporting it to the race director. Why is the system changing?
CW: In the past stewards might see something suspect and alert the race director. He would look at the incident and request the stewards investigate. It was a process that consumed a lot of time. If they identify something worth investigating, there’s nothing wrong with them taking a look and then giving the race director an opinion. It should make the process less cumbersome.