Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
“The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities”.
Qualifying in Shanghai was a wet messy affair that saw plenty of mistakes, especially when the pressure was on. With a dominant performance by Hamilton, and Red Bull taking full advantage of their chassis in the weather, a mixed up grid promises some interesting racing for tomorrow.
Q1 Battle of the Backmarkers
Qualifying in Shanghai kicked off at a languid pace as the rain fell incessantly and water pooled on the track. With Maldonado not taking part due to an oil leak that couldn’t be fixed in time, some of the drama of Q1 was missing. The early runners were tentative and Rosberg, perhaps in a sign of things to come was one of the first to exceed track limits without meaning to, but far from the last.
He quickly made up for his lapse however by coming round in P1 followed by Hamilton in P2. With caution being the watchword Ricciardo called for extremes over the radio, with the wags wondering whether that meant tyres or weather. Alonso made his presence known with 10 minutes to go by sticking it squarely in between the two Mercedes. Kobayashi, having nothing to lose, had switched to intermediates and managed to improve to P17, but still close to a second off. Vettel skated off to entertain the masses while Hamilton quietly closed up to his teammate.
In answer, Vettel managed to keep it on the black stuff long enough to climb to P3. With 7 minutes left attention began to drift to the back of the field where the absence of Maldonado focused attention on the battle between Guttierez and Sutil for P16. The track continued to be slippery as all the cars looked twitchy, especially under acceleration. The drop zone consisted of Gutierrez, Bianchi, Kobayashi, Chilton and Ericsson – with Gutierrez 0.7 seconds off his teammate.
That was until Bianchi strapped on a set of inters with 3:45 to play and was the better part of a second up on P17 until he completely misjudged the final corner and went off in epic fashion. Reacting quickly to the perceived threat the session finally kicked off for real as the teams strapped on the intermediates and went out to protect their positions. Raikkonen was trapped out on a set of full wets and with 1:29 left to play and in 12th he was set for some anxious times as the midfielders went round significantly faster than their previous efforts.
At the front of the field, Hamilton took P1 from Rosberg and Vettel, looking better in the wet, took P2 with Rosberg slotting into 3rd. At the back Vergne moved into 16th, but with Gutierrez still out it was looking like bad news, till he improved and put Grosjean on the spot. But it wasn’t to be as Gutierrez too blew the last corner sending Grosjean through as Hulkenberg displaced Vettel for P2.
Headed for early cocktails were Gutierrez, Kobayashi, Bianchi, Ericsson and Chilton in P17-21 with Maldonado in P22 having not taken part.
Q2 Melee in the Midfield
14 minutes to go and everyone was out, with the exception of Hulkenberg all on the inters which seemed to be settled in the last minutes of Q1 as the tyre of choice. Alonso was the first to put in a hot lap, followed quickly by Hamilton and Rosberg with Hamilton taking P1 an astonishing 1 second up. With 11 minutes left in the session, Massa, Vettel, Perez and Button all lingered in the exclusion zone with Perez going cross country in his effort. With time ticking down Vettel decided to get serious and slammed into P2 with an excellent lap, still 0.7 down on Hamilton, who looked to be paying a different game to everyone else in the wet, despite not setting a time in P3. The main drama was about to unfold with Magnussen, Sutil, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Massa and Perez heading out with 5 to go on fresh tyres.
Drama for Massa as approaching the final turn he attempted to back off to get space and was overtaken by Kimi, ultimately spoiling both their laps as Kimi ran into traffic and Massa lost the temperature in his tyres. Fortunately for Massa, he would have one last chance to make Q3.
The final round of laps kicked off with Hamilton bettering his previous times. Massa moved up to 9th, Raikkonen lingered in the drop zone and the McLarens were struggling with their cars. Hulkenberg in 10th was all over the track trying to improve his position but nothing doing and as the checkers fell he was able to maintain his place and move into Q3.
Left back were Raikkonen, Button, Kvyat, Sutil, Magnussen and Perez in P11-16.
Q3 War of the Winners
The rain continued to fall as the question was what tyres would everyone use. The answer came immediately, inters for most everyone save Hulkenberg. Vettel was first out the moment the track went green, followed by both Mercedes. With the possibility of track conditions deteriorating as the rain continued, the pressure was on.
Vettel was the first to lay down a time, a 1:54.9 with Rosberg crossing the line seconds later with a 1:55.1 Alonso put in a disappointing 1:56.5 and then, emerging from the spray, Hamilton crossed the line in a staggering 1:54.3. Grosjean had an off and had to pit. With 5 minutes left in the session the order was Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Alonso, Massa, Bottas, Vergne and Hulkenberg.
The second set of laps saw everyone onto the new inters and off they went into the miserable weather. Hamilton received a radio message on his out lap telling him the only place he was slower than Rosberg was turn 7. Given Hamilton’s struggles yesterday that can’t be good news for Nico.
As they crossed the line for their last efforts Vettel, Rosberg and Ricciardo were all on it, trading sectors by tenths until Rosberg lost it in the penultimate turn, killing his lap and giving him one more shot to top Hamilton. Vettel and Ricciardo both turned in tidier laps with Ricciardo into P2 and Vettel into P3. As they gave it one more go round Hamilton crossed the line in a 1:53.8 more than a second up on Ricciardo, who was well on his way to having another go. Vettel, having ceded the field to his team mate, rolled into the pits in P3 as Rosberg spun his car on the finishing straight ruining his last chance to improve and consigning him to P4.
Ricciardo, having wrung everything possible out of his machine, managed to get within 0.6 seconds of Hamilton, but that brought an end to the session. Hamilton on pole, with Ricciardo, Vettel, Rosberg, Alonso, Massa, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Vergne and Grosjean filling out the top 10. That makes 3 out of 4 for Ricciardo over Vettel this year and a new record for Lewis who now has the most poles ever for a British driver.
|2||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|3||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|8||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|9||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso|
|16||Sergio Perez||Force India|