Ambient 15° Track 26° Humidity 40% Wind 3.6m/s
Cool, dry and with the added fun of a massive crash for Carlos Sainz and well less than full house announced to boot. Between the diesel and the rain the track was fairly green and add the colder temps and a recipe for entertainment was in the mix. Rosberg had pole last year so it’s all to play for as the track went green. Cruise missiles? What cruise missiles?
Early losers had to be anyone without a jacket as Manor were straight out on the SuperSofts but made, as usual no impression. Williams ran toward the back in Q1 and early days it was Rosberg with the upper hand and Force India looking strong. Lewis lost his telemetry on his outlap according to team radio but there were no further reports so likely it came back. With Sainz out it was mostly a race not to be 16th and it was Alonso the non-winner of that contest. Ericsson managed to be slower than a McHonda so some small signs of life for the outfit and potentially 2 teams for Haas to beat next year at the rate Sauber are going.
Q2 proved to be the most entertainment for one’s dollar as it was on to see if Button could get through to Q3. He couldn’t, but it was a good try and over radio it seems that McHonda may have made a small step forward. Apparently Jenson and Fernando had saved all their complaints up for Japan as it was where Honda were most likely to hear them. I’m sure Ron Dennis had nothing to do with that. Happily Lewis and Nico traded top spot and were separated by just 0.172 with the GerMonegasque coolly retaking top spot with his last run. The big surprise was Massa, who, languishing in 15th failed to do bupkus about it and was summarily relegated, along with Kvyat, Nasr, Button and Maldonado in P11-P14. Williams admitted they got Massa out of sync and Felipe himself said that traffic was the main issue. Interestingly, in Q2, Williams went with the Ferrari contra strategy and emerged when most of the other runners were pitting to set their times. While it worked rather well for Bottas, we’ll have to see if they try that again.
With the dicing in Q2, Q3 looked to be a proper shootout for the top spot, but alas it was not to be. The cars all targeted lap 3 for their first hot lap and it was Rosberg with the upper hand by 0.3s and faster than Lewis in all 3 sectors for the first time in the session. Vettel switched places with Raikkonen but for the top 5 the names all remained the same, adding to the ennui, with only the mystery of Grosjean, Ricciardo and Verstappen having not set times to keep one’s eyes open. Save Ricciardo, that was remedied as the clock crossed the 3 minutes to go mark and it was Grosjean and then Verstappen taking P8 and P9. Ricciardo waited until the checquered flag dropped to confirm that he was indeed slower than the Toro Rosso. The second runs were proved to be anathema as first Lewis, then Kimi booted T13. Lewis pitted with 2 minutes left and that was the the end of that. Rosberg cruised to his pole without improving. the announcers tried to pretend that Vettel might pip Bottas for P3, but Valterri had 1s in hand going into the last run so the words highly and unlikely randomly pop to mind. Vettel did narrow the gap to 0.8s so I guess that is something, then. Rosberg, Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel and Raikkonen made the top 5, with Force India slotted behind, Hulkenberg leading the way.
Tomorrow’s race will actually be 2 races. The race to the first corner for the Mercedes, and the rest of the race for everyone else. According to Wolff rear degradation is high so perhaps something interesting will happen. One can always hope. Have fun in the comments and play nice. See you tomorrow!