Ambient 15° Track 16° Humidity 100% Wind 4.1 m/s
Rosberg led Hamilton by 0.014s at the end of FP3 with Riccardo the Red Bull cat amongst the proverbial pigeons, a tenth behind the Mercs and a tenth ahead of Vettel. Raikkonen’s engine complained bitterly enough about the thin air that it gave up altogether and might be very well looking at grid penalties should it need to be replaced. Perhaps Ferrari have employed him as a kind of bad luck magnet to shield Vettel. If so, they are definitely getting their money’s worth (/humour). Bits and pieces include Button being out of Quali altogether duee to random engine fault, supposedly thinner air helping the Renault turbo make Red Bull look a bit silly for complaining about engines and 2nd laps being faster.
AS always it was the Mercs leading the way in Q1, spectacularly fast on the Medium tyres and setting the early pace, with the rest squabbling over P3 and down even on the Soft tyre. IT wasn’t till Vettel came out late and took P1 away with the softer tyre that anyone looked even close. Rosberg came back out on the Option tyre to retake P1 but Lewis chose to remain in the pits and save a set of tyres.
Of course the real focus of Q1 is the brutal battle to make Q2 and it was fierce for P16 with Alonso and Nasr trading P16 but at the end neither able to displace Grosjean from P15. Rossi was riveting in taking P18 away from his teammate and both Manor’s had some rallycross practice during the session to liven things up a bit.
Q2 featured the fantastically strange decision of Ferrari to put Raikkonen out on the Prime tyre and it immediately paid dividends as the rear snapped ot on him under braking and ended his efforts rather prematurely. Vettel was able to carrry on admirably and Hamilton waltzed to P1 and was first driver into the 1:19’s. Vettel managed to get ahead of Rosberg by .008 and P2 but once again it was the bottom of the order that provided the real entertainment as Verstappen and Massa both managed to pull themselves into the top 10 well after the checkers dropped. Both Force India’s made it through as well and the Lotii looked tapped out, P12 and P13 for Grosjean and Maldonado respectively. Ericsson was the other loser in P14, but, not so much as his teammate who failed to make Q2.
The big boys came out to play in Q3 and unlike the last session it was Rosberg straight to the top and Hamilton again unable to answer. Vettel was P3 and the only other driver to hit the 1:19’s. Coming out after the interval for the final runs the track seemed to turn against the drivers with Hamilton unable to improve on his times and only Vettel getting some faster sectors in, but without the ability to improve his place. Confusion reigned with Hulkenberg as the Force India, out on it’s only run, mistook warm up and timed laps and had a rather lengthy chat with his engineer about it. Sadly the last bit of excitement dissipated as Lewis went wide on his 2nd lap after the checkers taking away any chance he might pressure Rosberg.
Good on Red Bull as Kvyat and Ricciardo claimed P4 and P5 behind Vettel and a nice showing by Verstappen in P8, tucked in behind the Williams, who have to be wondering what has happened to their early season advantage.
Another swing and a miss for Lewis after his 50th pole but that 3rd WDC will no doubt help console him, Rosberg again is in the catbird seat and happily enough with the penalties we will have some decidedly out of place drivers to liven things up.
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