Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
“Alas, how terrible is wisdom
when it brings no profit to the man that’s wise!.”
― Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
Qualifying for the Grand Prix of Cataluña took place under a bright and sunny sky. Pastor Maldonado provided the early excitement by driving into a wall and red flagging the session in Q1. Not to be outdone, Sebastian Vettel lost drive to red flag Q3, spoiling the laps of both Mercedes drivers. Not to worry as the Mercedes pair provided the fireworks late as Lewis Hamilton, after trailing Nico Rosberg in Q1 and Q2, found the pace and twisted the knife deep into his teammate. Nico’s body language told the whole story as he refused to even acknowledge his teammate post qualifying. The best of the rest featured a surging Ricciardo and a resurgent Raikkonen finally having a decent result in his new ride.
Q1 started with the Saubers out early. Gutierrez took the first flyer as track conditions appeared to be substantially different to Friday. After the noises that Marussia have been making the big drama of Q3 was who will be P16? Sadly, this was almost immediately spoiled by Pastor Maldonado taking it onto the AstroTurf in T4 and then into the opposite wall. It’s an unfortunate result for the Venezuelan after so much trouble free running on Friday.
At the session restart Hulkenberg led the way with a 1:28.856 followed by Gutierrez and Sutil. Ericsson was first to take advantage but made no significant impact on the standings. With 12:30 left the big hitters started rolling out of the garages and to the astonishment of absolutely no one Rosberg turned in a sterling 1:26.764. What was amazing, however, was Hamilton’s hot mess of a lap, ultimately leaving him 0.5 second down on his teammate and looking unusually twitchy. With the rest of the runners more than a second off the Mercedes duo, Button made his usual call complaining of tyres to comfort the TV audience that some things will never change.
At the 2:30 mark, Bianchi, Chilton, Ericsson, Kobayashi and Grosjean occupied P17-21 as the options came out and the backmarkers got down to business. As they got ready to do battle, Ricciardo vaulted into P3 with 1:30 left to go, while Magnussen was forced to strap on the options to make it out of P16.
As the checkers dropped to end Q1 Sutil on a hot lap forced Button into P17 temporarily. Button being on a hot lap himself managed to get round for P9, but again was wearing options to do so. So much for McLaren being 2nd fastest on the grid. Meanwhile Chilton managed to one up Bianchi and Grosjean must’ve breathed a sigh of relief as he wound up P16. Sutil, Chilton, Bianchi, Ericsson, Kobayashi and Maldonado occupied P17-22 and were done for the day.
The track sat silent for nearly a minute in Q2 before Force India entered the fray, with Hulkenberg taking P1 in a 1:27.863. Rosberg joined the fun at 10:30 to go and it wasn’t long before the rest of the field was at it. First Bottas, then Raikkonen, took over P1 but not for long as Rosberg again surprised no one by taking top spot. And Lewis had no real answer, thought the margin was closer this time around, 0.122.
The race to not be 11th was in full stride though and Vettel, making the most of of his new chassis took P3. Ricciardo did not take this lying down and immediately one upped Vettel, stealing P3 by nearly half a second. Button was running laps on hards while Grosjean continued to be plagued by the brakes on his Lotus. With 5 minutes to go Red Bull decided to park and Magnussen climbed out of his car having not set a time with unspecified Power Unit issues.
Vergne too, opted to not set a time and due to his penalty will start from the back tomorrow. On the other hand Raikkonen looked to be having a good weekend as he was actually ahead of Alonso and comfortable for the moment in P5.
As the midfielders prepared for their last runs Hulkenberg snuck into P8 with Massa in P9 at under a minute to go. With the checkers out Grosjean leaped up into P6 with Raikkonen into P7 , Button having sensibly strapped on a pair of options into P9 and Alonso unable to improve in P10. Bit of a heart-stopper for Alonso with Kvyat still out but the young Russian was unable to improve and Alonso moved on.
Q3 started with the promise of serious action as the Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes teammates all looked competitive. Sadly it was not to be as Vettel had trouble clearing pit lane and lost drive halfway around the track, spoiling the laps of both Mercedes and giving Lewis a bit of a moment. Still it was a glimpse that the gloves were off at Mercedes, but having pushed their tyres beyond optimal it opened the door for Ricciardo who was still on his out lap and had fresh tyres.
At the restart Rosberg’s impatience was on display for all to see as he was lined up as the lights went green. He was followed by a rapidly moving Hamilton whose out-lap was a bit faster than usual. As the sector times came in it was clear that Hamilton had the upper hand, but they were on used tyres. The question of what would happen on fresh tyres would have to wait until the very last seconds. Confirming his time, Hamilton took P1 from Rosberg as he crossed the line about 3 tenths up with 5 minutes to go. Ricciardo crossed in P3 and Alonso took P4 with everyone else opting to make only one run.
Just as the clock ticked over 3 minutes the final adjustments were made and the garages began to empty. Raikkonen was one of the first to go and as he exited the final turn to start his lap he almost lost the entire car. Rosberg was making mincemeat of Hamilton’s time with his fresh tyres, but it appeared the momentum had indeed swung as he looked more unsettled on his last effort.
Still he took P1 from Lewis, but Lewis grabbed it right back with a 1:25.232 and Rosberg 0.168 back. Raikkonen took P4 with Alonso 5th and and then out of nowhere Bottas took it. In rapid succession Ricciardo confirmed P3 and Grosjean swung into P5, putting Raikkonen into P6 with Alonso in P7. Rounding out the top 10 were Button in P8 and Massa in P9 with the unfortunate Vettel in P10.
With both Mercedes on full song and several cars out of place, tomorrow could indeed bring a race worth watching.
Post-Qualifing Review Table