In not very shocking news, Mexican eyebrow-enthusiast Esteban Gutierrez (former Sauber driver) is to join Haas, alongside Grosjean. Whilst he seemed amiable at Sauber, Gutierrez never really set the world alight and Grosjean will be a de facto, if not de jure, number one in that team.
Graeme Lowdon and John Booth are reportedly going to leave Manor at the end of the season. I’ve seen Lowdon interviewed a couple of times, and he always came across as someone with his head screwed on right, working hard to try and secure the team’s ongoing existence and propel it up the grid. It also seems technical chief Bob Bell is to leave the team.
If Manor do leave the sport it would be a great shame after it was rescued at the 11th hour last year, and as it has Mercedes engines and Williams components due for 2016, which would really help the team improve its pace.
There are also talks going on between Aston Martin and Force India, though nothing has been announced as yet.
The tyres this weekend are soft and medium.
The track is slipperier than a Blair apology, and from the little footage I’ve seen (as of yet) the circuit seems to have relatively little run-off. There may be potential for overtaking. The qualifying could be wet, though the race is likely to be dry (both start at 7pm UK time).
A safety car seems eminently possible, and I’ll be checking the Not To Be Classified market too (as well as the obvious example of Maldonado, the other Lotus of Grosjean, McLarens and Hulkenberg may be worth a look).
Speaking of McLaren, changing their engines a lot means they get grid penalties and will (unsure if it’s certain or merely likely) start from the back.
The circuit’s altitude means, as Mr. Sandpit helpfully related yesterday, the teams run Monaco levels of downforce but his Monza-like top speeds, which may present some interesting challenges and opportunities.
In P1 Verstappen was fastest, with Kvyat and Raikkonen following (the two drivers having identical times). Vettel was next, then Ricciardo and Rosberg, with Bottas, Sainz, Perez and Massa rounding out the top 10.
The first practice session was also notable for Rosberg’s rear brakes bursting into flames. Mercedes decided, quite understandably, to cut a few more holes in the car to enhance ventilation.
In P2, Rosberg led Ricciardo and Kvyat, followed by Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen. Bottas, Alonso, Button and Massa came next.
Rosberg was fastest in P3, a hundredth ahead of Hamilton. Ricciardo and Vettel were close to the Briton, followed by Kvyat, Perez, Bottas, Sainz, Massa and Hulkenberg.
Grosjean ground to a halt in P2, and suffered some reliability issues in P3 as well. May be value, in the race, to back Not To Be Classified. I’ll cover that in the pre-race piece.
Rosberg was only 2.34 with Betfair. Whilst he’s had 2/3 poles recently (the other being Vettel), that’s not tempting given the track’s slipperiness and narrow confines.
Sainz and Perez are both under 1.8 for Q3. Again, not tempted.
So, no bet.
The pre-race piece will be up tomorrow, probably in the morning. That’ll give me a chance to sleep on it, check the highlights online and let the markets warm up.