Ambient 22° Track 36° Humidity 57% Wind Gusty up to 8 m/s
Blue Skies and the occasional cloud overhead set the stage for qualifying in the 2015 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The sun hammered down on the track but it was the brutally gusty wind that would prove worse, as it exposed the drivers to a random crosswind at Copse, where Charlie Whiting had informed the teams track limits would be most severely enforced.
Alonso’s car had a hybrid cooler leak but McLaren managed to get him out and Rosberg’s earlier problems in FP3 had been resolved by Mercedes
IT was perilous times for the Hamilton fans as Rosberg had dominated the proceedings and continued the trend into Q1, consistently setting quicker times than his teammate on the Hard tyres. The Stewards were most dominant, however, as the brutal slaughter of laptimes for exceeding the limits at Copse were legion and it left more than a few drivers a bit more on edge than they would have preferred. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo were some of the bigger names to fall foul throughout the 3 sessions.
Verstappen enlivened with a spin in Q3 but it was a tricky day all the way round as the unpredictable wind kept all the runners on their toes. When the dust settled in Q1 it was Nasr, Alonso, Button, Stevens and Merhi getting dropped. Mercedes, Red Bull and Bottas had managed to save a set of Medium tyres
Into Q2 went the rest and with track temps dropping it was Lotus and Toro Rosso suddenly on the defensive, with Sainz barely eking it into Q3 and Verstappen struggling with a lack of grip at the rear, a fact he repeatedly made plain on the radio.
Hamilton managed to flat spot his race tyres into T3 and had to bail on his first attempt, then had a moment of huge snap oversteer at Luffield leaving him again behind Rosberg and yet to put in a really clean lap.
AS per their usual strategy Ferrari came out in the interval whilst the rest were in the pits, and Raikkonen did not improve his job rating by missing the limits at Copse, apparently thinking that the kerb, and not the white line was the limit. Oooops. Guess we know who was napping at the driver’s briefing. Fortunately he did manage to sneak into Q3, but it was no doubt closer than they would have liked.
Perez, Grosjean, Verstappen, Maldonado, and Ericcson were the big losers of Q2, with Grosjean characterizing his car’s handling as “crazy”. No points for Perez either as Hulkenberg managed a P6 whilst the Mexican missed Copse and had his time deleted. Lotus looked a handful and will no doubt be scratching their heads as they drift down the order despite their Mercedes PU.
AS Q3 kicked off track temps were on the rise and Hamilton again was out ahead of his teammate. This time, though, Lewis had finally managed to get it together and put together his first clean run, a blinder at 1:32:248. Coming across the line behind him for the first time Rosberg was unable to better him. Williams meanwhile were coming on strong and as the first runs settled it was clear that their updates were doing the job and Ferrari were under real pressure.
With Hamilton on provisional pole it was Bottas leading the cars back out on track and with the last minute ticking away he set the stage by immediately going slower than his first run, losing time going into T3. Next up was Lewis and he was more than a half second off his firts run into Sector 2 and bailed. Driver by driver the times failed to improve with the sole exception of Felipe Massa, who managed to take P3 away from his teammate and must now, instead of Bottas, be the clear favourite to replace Raikkonen at Ferrari. What…. oh wait, nevermind.
So once again the first run in Q3 proved pivotal and be it luck or skill, when it mattered most Lewis managed to put it together, regardless of his off track activities. James Allison and Ferrari no doubt will be asking themselves a few questions as well as they went P5 and P6 with Raikkonen proving to be the fastest Ferrari on the day.
Carlos Sainz was the first to interrupt the 2 by 2 order, sticking his Toro Rosso between the Red Bull of Kvyat and the Force India of Hulkenberg. Ricciardo brought up the rear as his 2nd run was disallowed for, you guessed it, exceeding the limits at Copse.
Very exciting to see the launch tomorrow now that Merc are running 2 different clutches. After that it’s anyone’s ballgame as reliability gremlins seem to inhabit the grounds at Silverstone and pole is not always the guarantee it is at many other track.
Mercedes look to be a tyre compound ahead at roughly 0.8s quicker than the Williams of Massa and the battle between Ferrari and Williams will be the marquee team engagement, though Red Bull seem to be happy-ish with their race pace.
See you tomorrow for the race!