Eddie, i'm not putting myself up as an expert but here is what i think. Oz does not always show the real picture. It gives you an idea but you have to wait two three races before a clear pattern emerges unless of course you are Ferrari:-#
First things first- Raikkonen was always expected to struggle initially. He will need a few races to get back in the groove so to speak. He will possibly struggle more during the race here and more so in Malaysia, unless he has followed some amazing physical exercise routine. Give him time. Even without the mistake, he was two tenths off Grosjean's time in the first two sectors and whilst he may have made it into Q2, doubt he would have gone further because he continues to have issues with the power steering.
The good thing as you pointed out is that Lotus seem quick. Once Raikkonen gets on top of his troubles he should go well.
Ferrari- They are in great trouble. Oz may not be an indication of many things but it's impossible to hide lego car's weakness. Their B-spec will be ready for the in-season test and should race in Barcelona. Until that time it's about doing the best they can with what they have, which is a very scary and mysteriously unbalanced car. They are lucky in that they have you know who, and he will keep them united and lead them in the right direction. He missed Q3 having done only one flying lap in Q2 on a used set of tires. With a new set he would have been in Q3 and probably qualified between 6th and 9th some where. That cannot be said for Massa, he is history. No matter what he does, he is out at the end of this year.
RedBull- Again early days but it maybe safe to say that you won't be asking Steve for another treat this year. The have issues with their car, they changed the exhaust system again this morning. Clearly something is not right with their car and all the talk last year at Silverstone seems to be right it seems; 1) Their car would not b as competitive without the EBD 2) Minus that, Webber will be very competitive and close to Vettel. On both counts it's way too early. The most telling thing was his post qualifying comment when he said ' Mclaren was out of reach '
Red Bull have great resources but can they out develop Mclaren? I don't know but if i were a betting man i would say no they can't. They will get closer to the front, win races but the domination of last few years is gone.
Mercedes- Looks good, tire degradation might be a problem in the race. Rosberg messed up his run by locking up at turn 3 and flat spotted his tire. Minus that they could have had a front row start with Rosberg. The question mark is about their passive F-duct and how aggressively Red Bull and Lotus go after it. It's giving them a huge advantage in qualifying. They should win one of the fly away races at least. They have the resources and people to keep developing and Schumacher's experience to call upon.
Mclaren- Easily the prettiest car and rightfully the fastest. Hamilton should reassert himself within the team this season. They look like the team to beat but again lets wait till Malaysia at least which is a more aero dependent track to see if they can replicate this performance there. The down side, if Hamilton fails to have the better of Button then the two drivers are quite likely to take points off each other allowing someone else through the door who can take the championship. I for one expect Hamilton to destroy Button this year.
Williams- Can't put into words how happy i am to see that team in the top ten. Hopefully it will continue for some time and not prove a one off. Bruno if he picks up his game can help the team score valuable points in a tight midfield battle.
Force India- Too much talk pre-season and didn't quite live up to it here at least. Expect Hulkenburg to have the better off Di Rista through out the season.
Toro Rosso- Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, arguably the most exciting driver pairing on the grid. I expect Vergne to get better as the season goes on and come out on top by the end of the season. One of the will progress to Red Bull and the other, maybe Ferrari?:S
HRT- Throw them out of F1 and set fire to their cars and whatever little factory they have, if they have one that is. Should not be allowed to race tomorrow.
You don't watch qualifying and want treats!! Okay just because you have a special place in Steve's heart:) i'll overlook it this time. Consignment sent to all three. Sorry for the delay.
I am not sure that is the case with Red Bull, bro. I haven't seen a forecast anywhere that suggests more than a 40% chance of rain and doubt any team would risk running a wet set up because of that. Red Bull seem to be well and truly struggling on this track. In a week's time it may well be very different when they go to the very aero dependent Malaysia.
Yes, their race pace should be better in that they won't be as hard on tires as say Mercedes and possibly Lotus too.
Regarding Vettel, well all the fun is gone from over taking and racing. You deploy the DRS, the car in front is a sitting duck and you fly past them in a straight line even before the braking area. There is no art in that my friend. If this is indeed the true running order or it is for say the first 6-7 races then Vettel's true test will come in two ways. One, how good is he at leading his team out of this situation. Two, if the Mclaren drivers start taking points off each other can he sneak in there. It's that part of his race craft that will be tested this season if this is indeed the correct running order which i doubt it is because I expect Rosberg to be right at the front fighting so that's an added car.
As for lego car, it's not going anywhere and it's scary. It's scary because it reminds me of 1994 for some reason. I was unfortunately old enough to remember, this has the makings of `94 all over again. A lead driver ( I am avoiding saying the best although i have little doubt ) expected to bring titles in a mysteriously unstable car, team can't get to the bottom of the reason, keeps pushing to get a better qualifying result and a better race result, too much pride at stake and it can all go very wrong. We may have seen a little glimpse of it today. Hope thats all it is and nothing more.