Ambient 29° Track 46° Humidity 55% Wind 0.4 m/s
A massive thunderstorm last night, strong enough to damage a grandstand, along with new kerbs and broken up pavement conspired to slow the cars, but sadly enough the weather for qualifying was perfectly boring. A 3 grid spot penalty for Bottas’ inexplicable decision to pass under a red flag loomed, along with Rosberg recent streak of quali victories and a new, NEW engine for Ricciardo
Q1 started with the shocking and appalling choice of Mercedes to give no one a chance by starting on the Option tyre, despite their already massive advantage. Sit down, take a few breaths and when you’ve recovered it’s likely due to the fact that the want to save the Prime tyre for the race tomorrow. Still their decision say all the runners that started out on the Prime tyre, including Ferrari and Williams their closest competitor, basically wasting a set for the race tomorrow.
Early days saw Hamilton fastest, followed by Rosberg not the least bit surprisingly, but not before everyone sat in the garage for a couple of minutes, due to the short nature of the lap in Sao Paolo. Alonso entertained early on when yet again he was told to park the car before he could even set a lap time. Rather than trudge back to the pits, he instead took advantage of a corner marshal’s chair and set himself up for an excellent view of the rest of qualifying.
Languishing at the bottom, aside from Manor, was Maldonado and Ericsson. Lotus had waited late to go and though Grosjean was able to find it, Pastor was not and wound up P16. Ericsson joined him on the outs in P15, but it was Nasr who got all sorts of unwanted attention as he wandered directly into Massa’s hot lap and forced him off track in an incident the stewards promised to have a look at after the session. Happily enough for Felipe he had enough time for another go and was able to avoid relegation. Button was P17 with Rossi, Stevens and Alonso bringing up the rear. The McLaren duo continued to entertain, sneaking onto the podium for a few selfies during the interval anbd certainly the closest they will get this year.
F1 journalism rules dictate that the off experienced by Grosjean in Q2 be described as lurid, but however you put it, it was by far the most interesting thing in the session. First sideways, then backwards and barely keeping it out of the barriers, it pretty thoroughly spoiled the day for him and despite carrying on, P15 was the best he could do. Not what Lotus needed given the closeness of the battle with Toro Rosso. Also not making the grade was Carlos Sainz, who just struggled with the car and wound up P12 relative to P8 for his teammate, Verstappen. Perez was another mystery washout, P13 relative to Hulkenberg in P6. Nasr in P11 was oh so close as was Massa in P10, clearly having a hard time with the new kerbs and barely making it through the session. Ericsson was P14 and fairly invisible during the session. At the top, it was Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg and Lewis looked set to end his drought in Brasil.
Q3 had different plans, however and Rosberg came out to play, topping Hamilton by .088 and shifting the pressure to to Lewis. Vettel took P3 after the first run and then they all retired for the final efforts. After a few very long minutes it was Rosberg leading the way back onto the track and once again setting purple sectors in 1 and 2 that Lewis just could not quite match, though Lewis came back to take Sector 3, but not by enough to halt his teammates streak of poles, which was extended to 5. Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen made the rest of the top 5, with another stonking drive by Hulkenberg for P6, which will become P5 after the penalty on Bottas. It was a welcome result for the Force India man whose second half the season could be called scruffy only if one was aiming for excessive politeness. Red Bull pronounced themselves thoroughly underwhelmed with the results of the new Renault engine post session and the messiness that is the slow and deliberate dissolution of their relationship continues to be almost as engrossing as the on track action.
Limited oppportunities for overtakes at the top and a brutal struggle between Toro Rosso and Lotus should dominate the racing tomorrow. With any luck, some rain will drop by at some point and spice things up.
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