Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
The Teutonic sun hammered down through clear skies, blistering the tarmac with air temps of 32◦C and track temps of 53◦C as qualifying at Hockenheim once again turned topsy-turvy, no thanks to mid-season regulation changes. Instead it was the explosion of Lewis Hamilton’s right front brake disc in Q1 that upset the applecart, having sent him into a hard shunt and leaving him sounding breathless and woozy over the radio. Haters will claim it’s his fault for driving the car too hard while true believers will believe that the shot of Rosberg smiling and eating a banana before Q1 is proof that Mercedes is sabotaging him. The rest of us will settle down and enjoy Lewis once again having to make his way to the front, with luck in the pouring rain.
Thankfully, after a less than stellar practice, Williams decided to show up and make an actual race of it, with Bottas missing pole by 0.2 seconds and Massa just behind him. Magnussen turned in a stellar drive to place P4, in stark contrast to his teammate, who was slowed by imaginary traffic and could only manage P11. Of course, the inevitable was inevitable and after a scrappy start in Q1, Rosberg settled down and delivered a pole. Further down Vettel gave Ricciardo a run for his money and Raikkonen continued to struggle. With Alonso in 7th, Ferrari do not appear to have gained from the suspension changes at all, whilst an exuberant Kvyat in 8th is set to make life difficult for the Ferrari driver. Rounding out the top ten were Hulkenberg and Perez, while Alonso’s teammate could do no better than 12th, though he did suffer technical issues in P3 once again.
Marussia were first out of the gate as the camera lingered longingly on Patrick Dempsey, who is running in the Porsche Super Cup this weekend. As they circulated, Button hit the tarmac as the other runners carefully considered their tyre strategy due to the fragile nature of the tyres and heavier degradation being experienced by all the teams.
With 15 minutes to go the track began to fill, with Magnussen, Vergne, and Perez joining the fun as the first times began to filter through. Button went first with a laggardly 1:20 but that survived only momentarily as Massa came through in a 1:19.389. AS the top runners began to set their times, the backmarkers were already pitting to switch to the option tyre which was significantly faster than the prime this weekend.
Magnussen came across the line with a 1:19.379, confirming the pace he had shown in Free Practice 3, followed by Massa, Hulkenberg Perez and Button. As with all good things, this was not to last because Mercedes were on track and like a cat toying with mice, Hamilton was first to post up for the Dynamic Duo with a 1:18.863, though Nico was having a scrappy time of it after having gone wide on his first attempt.
Massa took P2 shortly after Hamilton, and then Bottas took P1 with a 1:18.215, no doubt raising a few eyebrows in the Mercedes garage. Rosberg continued to struggle to put a lap together as in replay he was shown going wide at a different turn to his first effort.
As the cars began to set up for the final 10 minutes it was Bottas, Hamilton, Massa, Alonso at the sharp end with no time still for Rosberg. At the other end, Sutil, Gutiérrez, Kobayashi, Chilton and Rosberg were on the outs, with Ericsson not running due to hydraulic issues. Maldonado sat on the bubble in 16th, while apparently Charlie Whiting was of the opinion this week that drivers could regularly exceed track limits and keep their times, in contravention to the example set at the last two GP’s.
As this travesty unfolded, Lewis Hamilton’s right front brake disc exploded, sending him heavily into the wall and putting him out before Q3 for the first time since Malaysia 2010. On the radio immediately afterwards he sounded winded and disoriented, and the red flag was dropped almost immediately, leaving Rosberg still to set a time. Post-Race, Paddy Lowe explained it was an issue they had been having with Brembo material, with the discs being swapped out between FP3 and Qualifying. Notably, Rosberg does not run Brembo so there was no concern from the team about his brakes.
After a brief trip to the Medical Center, Hamilton was pronounced fit and safe to drive and returned to the garage, though he did seem to be moving a bit gingerly up the stairs.
A brief delay to reset they tyre barriers and it was all to play for on the now very crowded track. Finally with 4 minutes left, Rosberg set a decent lap on the option tyre to which the entire field had migrated during the delay, though his 1:17.631 would certainly have not counted at Silverstone as he clearly was 4 wheels off coming onto the start/finish straight. With a minute to go, Vettel lolled about in 16th but he was already on a fast lap and leaped into 3rd as the checkers came out. Grosjean, Bianchi, Maldonado, Chilton and Kobayashi were all still on flyers. Grosjean’s late improvement saw Sutil doomed and Hulkenberg shoved into 16th, but the rest failed to improve and that is the way it stayed, Sutil, Bianchi, Maldonado, Kobayashi, Chilton and Ericcson out and the rest advancing.
With track temps up to 55◦C and no immediate takers there was lots of playing with fiddly slow motion equipment as the TV commentators attempted to discern the exact nature of Hamilton’s spin. Steve Matchett on NBCSN won the race to spot the cloud of carbon dust on the right front moments before the spin, as the Sky tech team was distracted by the locking of the right rear. After 2 minutes of this Force India could stand it no more and Hulkenberg leaped out of the garage to give them something else to do. His first time was a 1:18.270, but again it wasn’t long for the world as Bottas was on a tear and took top honours. Rosberg was having none of it and once again bested him with a 1:17.109, having sorted out his Q1 issues.
Red Bull hit the track with around 8 minutes left on the clock. Ricciardo managed a 5th but Vettel looked to have the better of his teammate and launched himself into a temporary P3, splitting the Williams.
Having ticked down to 4 minutes, Magnussen turned in a splendid effort, snagging P4 while Button complained of traffic from a Lotus, which was later shown to be nonexistent by the ever helpful Sky broadcast team. Perez continued to sit in the garage, apparently husbanding his efforts for one, make or break effort as the rest of runners boxed for one last tyre change.
Perez finally headed out with just enough time to get round before the checkers and at 1:30 Hulkenberg made it into 8th. Massa jumped to 3rd as Raikkonen had a massive lock up into the hairpin and spoiled his last chance to advance. Also in the bottom 6 were Vergne, Grosjean, Gutierrez, Perez and Hamilton (natch).
As the time expired for the session, Ricciardo managed a P6, Button in 10th failed to improve with Perez streaking around the circuit. Vergne into 12th, Grosjean no improvement and then Perez into 10th with an ecstatic Kvyat into 9th sealing Button’s fate (in more ways than one perhaps with Ron looking on). After Button, Raikkonen, Vergne, Grosjean, Gutierrez and Hamilton were going no further, though Hamilton will start 15th due to Gutiérrez penalty from Silverstone.
In contrast to the last session, Perez was out straightaway, followed by Hulkenberg and Rosberg. Bottas and the Red Bulls trailed out a little later and by the 10 minute mark most of the cars were circulating. First Perez, then Hulkenberg set times in the 1:19’s on used tyres as Rosberg made his way around, crossing the line in a blazing 1:16.540. Bottas chased him to the line in a 1:17:054 followed closely by Massa for P3, the trio all on new options. As the dust settled from the first round of times it was Vettel the best of the rest followed by Magnussen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Kvyat, Hulkenberg and Perez.
AS the field retired to change tyres it was once again Perez first out. As he circulated Vettel received a radio call about energy management. Everyone else lagged out of the garage with Rosberg the tail of the dragon. Perez 2nd effort yielded a 1:18.035 temporarily good for 6th. At less than a minute, Massa had a good look at a clear track with Bottas trailing him, also in clear air. Ricciardo hit the line for 3rd just as the session ended as first Massa and then Bottas failed to displace Rosberg from the top spot, though he did reduce his deficit to 0.2 seconds. AS Ricciardo fell down the standings courtesy of Williams, Magnussen came through with another brilliant and largely unseen effort to take P4. At the close of the day, Vettel still couldn’t quite get it done and finished just off his teammate for P6. Alonso a disappointing 7th will line up next to the irrepressible Kvyat in 8th while Hulkenberg and Perez fill out P9 and 10 respectively.
It looks to be a cracker of a race tomorrow with Hamilton out of position on uncertain brakes, Bottas and Massa looking very racy, Vettel much more competitive with his teammate and less than 0.2 between P9 and P13. Thunderstorms are predicted and not just on track. If the Gp2 drivers are any indication, it will be one to remember.
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|6||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|8||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India|
|13||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|Esteban Gutierrez – Three place penalty causing collision at previous round.|