Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 15° Track 20° Humidity 73% Wind 4.9 m/s
Spitting Rain and a nasty chill set the stage for Qualifying in Montreal, accented by Kevin Magnussen’s odd looking accident in FP3 that red-flagged the session and ended it early. The same incident also left KMag completely out of luck as he would require a new tub which meant repairs would not be completed before qualifying began.
Despite the stated face that both the UltraSoft and Supersoft have the same working range (85°-115°) trackside observers are reporting that the Supers seem to come on quicker than the Ultras, which would be confirm what was seen in Monaco and could provide interesting strategic variations for tomorrow’s race, though it will be brake temperatures that will likely be the most important issue for teams as it drives tyre temps and it’s still hard for teams to get enough regen due to the paucity and timing of braking events. In any event with FP3 led by Vettel and Verstappen uncertainty looked to be the order of the day, though Mercedes had been sitting pretty all weekend.
A Dry track started Q1 but with a shower forecast for the end of Q3 the word changeable enjoyed a nice boost in it’s Google analytics, with unpredictable running neck and neck. The biggest race was the one to get out of the pitlane so as to avoid any unpleasant weather surprises.
Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg and Raikkonen led the way with Ferrari eschewing their usual waiting game. UltraSoft tyres were the choice of all save Perez as Vettel made life interesting early on by trying to pass Lewis as they were warming the tyres.
Mercedes looked to be on a 2 lap warm up as in Monaco along with Ferrari. Rosberg, Vettel, Hamilton, and Raikkonen was the order after the first laps, with Nico on a 1:14.001 and Lewis on a 1:14.952.
As the midfield joined the fun, Bottas made P2 ahead of Vettel and Hamilton as Raikkonen was detached by Perez. As Red Bull joined the fun a 2nd round of times led to Rosberg and Vettel ascending to the 1:13’s and Haryanto angling for some telly time had a massive lock up.
Ricciardo went P4 and with just under 9 minutes left, the first reports of drizzle hit the radio. Riding the bubble was Daniel Kvyat with Ericsson, Grosjean, Nasr, Palmer and Haryanto on the outs and 6 minutes left in the session.
Grosjean went P15 as the minutes ticked down and Perez reported drops all round the track as those at the back felt the squeeze of desperation to escape the drop zone.
Kvyat was next to improve, P11 with 3 minutes left. Palmer continued to not improve and Kvyat’s time dropped Grojean onto the bubble as Alonso’s name crept into P14.
Palmer continued to not improve as Haryanto had a big knock when he drifted it into the barriers at T4 and broke his right rear suspension. With just 30 seconds left there was no time for Ericsson to hit his teammate and that effectively ended the session. Palmer, Wehrlein, Ericsson, Nasr and Haryanto were toast and Haas took a deep breath as Grosjean just managed to escape the session by 0.015s. Up at the front, Ricciardo managed to sneak in front of Hamilton for P3 and with the wet appearing randomly tension in the pits was escalating.
Q2 began just like Q1 with all the cars making a break for the track as the odd umbrella began to appear in the stands. Hulkenberg was first off with the Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg appearing about 6th and the Ultras appeared to be the choice for the banker lap. Only Williams and McLaren chose to roll the dice by staying in the pits.
With 12 minutes left Carlos Sainz brought out the red flag as he glanced the Wall of Champions with his rear and tipped his front into the barrier as well. Technophiles got a nice long look at the floor of his Toro Rosso, as it was removed from the track by a tow truck. Entertainingly, only Kvyat had set a representative time when it happened and he lingered at the top of the time sheets while the session was halted, with the rest replotting their strategy for a session that was effectively now 4 minutes shorter.
Williams was out first followed by Mercedes when the session restarted and Ferrari trailed off the back. Red Bull gave it about 30 seconds before they joined the fun, circling at the back of the pack.
Williams jumped to the top on their first times, which they ran on their 2nd laps. Hamilton and Rosberg traded fast sectors with Lewis owning S1 and Nico S2. Lewis took the rubber match of S3 with a combined 1:13.076 but a mere 0.018s separated the teammates on the timing sheets. Ricciardo confirmed his nuisance status to Mercedes by going P3 roughly a half second back trailed by the Bottas, Verstappen and then the Ferraris, with Kimi ahead of Seb.
With 3 minutes left it was Perez standing on the ledge of P10, whilst Button, Alonso, Kvyat, Grosjean and Gutierrez set themselves up for one more shot at Q3 glory.
Vettel opted to stand on his P7, but Kimi decided to put some more work in and went back out on 3 lap old Ultras. Massa was back out to improve his P8 as well.
AS the checkers fell it was Perez to P9 Kvyat to P11 and Hulkenberg onto the ledge. Button failed to improve, but Alonso did the deed and made P9, shelling Hulkenberg and dropping Perez into P10. Kvyat failed to get it done and Hulkenberg neatly dispatched his teammate and left Alonso P10 and Button no doubt bemoaning the balance of his car.
Perez, Button, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Grosjean, and Sainz were the officially excluded at the end of the session, an a cracking number from Alonso, a 1:14.26 that shows perhaps Honda’s turbo upgrade was a good choice.
Without rain Mercedes looked to have a lock on pole, but with Rosberg running so close to Hamilton at least the possibility of some excitement lingered in the air, along with the incipient rain.
Ricciardo kicked it off, followed by Hamilton and Bottas, which would have been an exciting way to line up for the race. But first the long wait for hot laps. Lewis straitened the chicane as he was warming his tyres for a minor diversion and it looked to be a 2 lap warm up for all the top teams this time around.
Lewis owned S1 for the 2nd time, Rosberg S2 and even though Rosberg was faster in S3 as well, it was Hamilton with a 1:12:812 and Rosberg a mere 0.062s behind. Verstappen, Vettel and Ricciardo rounded out the top 5 and Bottas edged his Williams ahead of the Force India of Hulkenberg. Vettel also had a bit of a Sainz moment, minus all the breakage. AS the cars reset, the pressure was definitely on Ricciardo and Raikkonen came out to to play. Massa failed to better Bottas and Raikkonen was on a nice lap as the rest of the cars began to circulate for their 2nd runs. P6 for Kimi which at least put both Ferraris ahead of Williams. Cold Comfort indeed for Kimi.
Mercedes were on it with under a minute left and it was Hamilton purpling S1 as Vettel went P3 only 0.178s off. A tale of Two Ferraris indeed! Ricciardo did in Young Max with a mighty 1:13.166, good for P4, 0.3s up and maintaining his ascendancy in the team.
Despite his magnificent S1, Lewis didn’t improve on his first lap and as the times rolled in it was all eyes on Rosberg. Sadly, it was a massive lockup into T1 and onto the grass for T2 and game over. Nico rolled into the pits and didn’t even complete the lap, such were the tiny margins at the top he knew he was done and why stress the engine.
Ferrari vs Red Bull looks to be the race tomorrow, but if the wet weather arrives game on. Also worth remembering Mercedes’s starts have been far from brilliant this season and should either Vettel or Ricciardo get in front of the Mercedes it could get verrry interesting indeed.
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