Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Leaden skies, spitting rain and typically indecisive British weather were the star in topsy turvy session full of delightful surprises. Out of position cars and last minute reversals were the order of the day as the stage was set for a massive Grand Prix tomorrow.
At the start it was 16◦C with the wind at 8km/h and a track temperature of 21◦C. The typical runners were off with everyone wearing the inters and Chilton wearing a new gearbox as well, good for a 5 spot grid penalty. Typical of the wet, times were slow to start rolling in with the first not coming till 14 minutes to go. The first waves of runners featured Gutierrez at the top followed by Bianchi and Perez but not for long as Ricciardo and Hamilton were already on hot laps. Ricciardo flashed by first in a 1:44 but Hamilton immediately crushed it with a 1:43.676 with Rosberg trailing him into 3rd.
Vettel was in the middle of his first timed lap with 12 minutes to go but the Williams sat silent in their garage, waiting for clear track and better weather perhaps, but a radio call to Perez indicated more light rain and the Williams continued their lonely vigil.
Meanwhile, Raikkonen managed to claw his way into 12th after several entertaining trips round the circuit and with 9 minutes to go the Williams duo emerged. Massa had quite the opposite lock moment on his first serious effort but managed to keep it between the white lines and came across a respectable 5th, only to be dropped to 6th by his teammate Bottas who replaced him in 5th. The backfield meanwhile had switched to the mediums as the track dried and all the top runners pitted to cover the move. With 4 minutes to go it was all up in the air as Kobayashi was the first to have a go, but there was a mechanical issue with the car and he had to pit before he set a time.
Gutierrez came through next and confirmed the decision to switch tyres as he rocketed to the top of the timing list. Once again the drivers had been warned that going off at Club and Copse would be punished by having times deleted, a feature that Button was the first to try going wide as he lost it going into Club and had his temporary P1 time deleted by the stewards despite the fact that it was not intentional. Clearly, no mercy would be shown today.
With the Ferraris and Williams languishing in the drop off zone as times improved at 2:25 Ericsson had a tank slapper that took him into the gravel and broke the car, no doubt impressing the new investors in Caterham quite thoroughly as well as bringing out the yellows.
And then it got interesting as rain returned to the circuit and drivers expecting an evolving circuit hit an ice rink instead. At the 40 second mark Alonso took an unexpected trip off circuit, spoiling his lap as well as his teammates with no chance to get around for one more try. AS the precious seconds ticked away Sutil then beached his car trapping the Williams on the wrong foot and ensuring they too would not advance. The session ended with Williams, Ferrari and Caterham going no further and an exciting start to the race tomorrow guaranteed.
Back on the inters and out quickly to start the show were the Marussia’s, beneficiaries of the ill fortune that befell both Ferrari and Williams. The initial lap times were slower than the wet times of Q3, with Ricciardo having set the early pace at 1:47.98. but not for long as the Toro Rosso’s, typically showing well in the wet, came through to displace him. Button and Perez were in 6th and 7th but all eyes were on the Mercedes as they battled it out with Hamilton winning round one 0.6 seconds up on his teammate with both well clear of the field.
Vettel had been on a burner whilst the Mercedes’s danced and taking advantage of the drying track took P1 from Hamilton with 8 minutes to go but not for long as he too was dinged for exceeding the track limits and lost his time.
The drying track once again prompted the call to switch tyres from Hamilton and with 6 minutes to go Rosberg was already circulating on the Mediums. Horner made a panicked call to Vettel to box as his fast time had been deleted and leaving him in 14th with time running down. Button vaulted into 4th as the clock ticked, with Grosjean, Gutierrez, Bianchi, Vettel and Chilton in the drop zone.
Rosberg posted a time nearly 2 seconds clear of the previous best effort as Hamilton had a big off. Gutierrez improved on Rosberg’s time as once again an evolving track beckoned and a fierce Bianchi took advantage to top Gutierrez.
Hamilton’s second effort was massive at 1:35 dead, pushing Button into 11th, followed by Kvyat, Maldonado, Grosjean, and Perez. Button was on a flyer however and fortunately ahead of Gutierrez, who had decided to pay an unplanned visit to the Armco, bringing out the yellows and ending the fairy tale for Marussia, in 12th and 13th, as well as any chance for improvement. Chilton’s gearbox penalty would displace him to 18th with Grosjean in 11th Gutierrez in 14th Maldonado in 15th and Sutil in 16th rounding out the dropped group, Maldonado having experienced a fuel pressure loss which brought his efforts to an untimely end.
With the rain coming again anything was possible and with 8 minutes left the first times of the session were set, Perez Kvyat and Vergne at the top. Hamilton came through into 1st but barely as he was sliding all over the track as the rain was crushing the lap times as the weather worsened. With 6 minutes to go Vettel had yet to set a time, Rosberg trailed Hamilton by 0.192 and everyone was in the garage.
With Magnussen almost 6 seconds down it was inevitable that Vettel would have a go, the only questions were what tyres he would use and would anyone else bother.
At the 2 minute mark both these were answered as Hulkenberg bolted from the Force India garage on the Mediums as in 7th he had little to lose. That broke the log jam and suddenly everyone was out and trying to make start finish before the checkers fell except Ricciardo, Kvyat and Vergne. Hamilton neatly edged his teammate and was in front prompting panicked calls from his teammate to hurry up and indeed Rosberg barely made the line as time expired. There seemed to be no point as Vettel was almost a second down in S1 and almost 2 seconds off in S2. But then, astonishingly, Hulkenberg’s name flashed to the top of the charts, followed rapidly by Vettel. S3, where most of the time had been lost, had dried and time was being made up in massive chunks. Hamilton had bailed on his lap meanwhile and let Rosberg through, perhaps thinking he had done his damage and there was no way Rosberg could catch him. Having been set free Rosberg stomped the go fast pedal and took pole away from Vettel as well as his teammate in a staggering reversal of fortune for Hamilton who had been dropped to 6th in the time it took him to get to the pits. The final order was Rosberg, Vettel, Hulkenberg, a resurgent Button, Magnussen, Hamilton, Perez, Ricciardo, Kvyat and Vergne as recriminations no doubt reverberated throughout the paddock.
There’s no doubt in hindsight it was a mistake by Lewis not to continue his lap and Mercedes was quick to blame him post-race as he had been given the choice to bail. But the larger question remains, as McLaren in a radio call told Button to push, once again have Mercedes’ dropped the ball? Is this another sign of how much Brawn’s presence is missed? Lowe looked utterly clueless post race and not the least bit concerned about it as at the least they would’ve guaranteed themselves another front row lockout has they told Lewis to finish the lap.
Regardless, it’s a fortunate day for race fans as with Hamilton in 6th, the Williams and Ferraris at the back and the massively unpredictable weather tomorrow is set to be a cracker of a race.
|2||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|4||Nico Hulkenburg||Force India|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India|
|8||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|9||Daniil Kyvat||Toro Rosso|
|10||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso|