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Ambient 20° Track 25° Humidity 79% Wind 5.5 m/s
Steel Grey Skies, wind and omnipresent damp ruled the roost as the teams prepared for qualifying. With Rosberg mere hundredths slower than Hamilton in FP3, fireworks at the front look to be a real possibility yet again. Vettel collected yet another gearbox penalty, again with some deja vu thrown in. Ricciardo and Red Bull half a second back have absolutely eclipsed Ferrari at the moment, as the wind at Silverstone and the balance of the scarlet cars had them struggling to keep up with the sharp end for the fast lap contest.
Marcus Ericsson had an epic smash that red flagged the damp to dry FP3 for 17 minutes and as a result would not take part in the quali. The impact was so violent that the steering wheel literally came off in his hand, after first dropping his rear wheel onto the astroturf into Stowe and going directly off into the tyre wall by pit exit. Club, Copse and Stowe were at the top of Charlie Whiting’s brief to drivers with track limits to be severely enforced should any driver stray over the white lines.
Wehrlein and Haryanto led the way into Q1, followed rapidly by HAAS, Renault and the solitary Sauber driver. Mercedes wasted little time following suit and of the runners, only Force India chose to start on the Hard tyres, with the rest sporting the Soft option.
Haryanto won the battle of the Manors round 1, and it was Rosberg with first touch at the other end of the grid, 0.015s faster than Hamilton. Grosjean floated P3 as Red Bull exited the pits with 13 minutes to go in the session. Palmer went wide at Copse and promptly had his time deleted, confirming the zero tolerance policy announced by the FIA.
At the 10 minute mark, Massa went P3 briefly before being quickly eclipsed by Verstappen and then Ricciardo, who was faster than Felipe, but not quite as fast as the Boy Wonder. Both Mercedes chose to pit with Lewis improving his S1 time along the way, as Ferrari joined the fray. Vettel pulled P4 until Raikkonen pipped him for the spot, demoting Sebastian to P5 with the pair splitting the Red Bulls.
The drama for those at the back was just beginning as with 5 minutes left to go it was Magnussen, Haryanto, Wehhrlein, Gutierrez and Nasr on the outside looking in with Grosjean sitting rather perilously in P16. Palmer in P15 nearly a full second up on the HAAS driver.
Romain wasted little time and jumped up to P12 while his teammate went P10 so with 3 minutes left it was Palmer unceremoniously dumped to P17, with Kvyat down to P16 and Jenson Button rather uncomfortable in P15 and parked in the pits with work being done to the car as the final laps were turned.
Just after the checkers fell Magnussen completed his lap and went P15 pushing Button to P16 with Kvyat and Palmer left to cross. Kvyat flashed across the line and took P15, dispatching Button to certain ignominy whilst Palmer did not improve. Button, Palmer, Haryanto, Wehrlein, Nasr and Ericsson would go no further.
Or at least until Button climbed back into the car as replay clearly showed that Magnussen might’ve been all 4 off at Luffield and Stowe.
While that was being investigated, the track went green and Rosberg and Hamilton were first out for Q2, trailed by Perez and Hulkenberg.
Rosberg and Hamilton were setting fire to the track as the investigation continued, with Rosberg setting purple sectors before Hamilton took them away. Into the 1:29’s for Rosberg and Shazam!! Lewis through in in 1:29.243 P1 and holder of the new lap record at Silverstone.
During the Mercedes show, Button climbed out of his car, having received official word that his day was done and the remainder of the cars joined the track. Verstappen went P3 again with Ricciardo more than a tick behind, 0.6s off. Hulkenberg then Sainz completed the picture as Ferrari and Williams had yet to set their times.
Williams was first to put up numbers, with Bottas going P5 and Raikkonen had a nasty spin after letting Bottas through whilst Vettel went P4 to split the Red Bulls. Perez called in a pit limiter problem as he boxed, looking to not have to pay yet more speeding fines. Button in an interview reported his problem was the rear wing partially detaching during his first lap and the associated loss of downforce.
With less than 5 minutes left, Raikkonen rejoined with a new set of tyres to set his time. Perez, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Massa, Raikkonen and Magnussen all with work to do, and Alonso P10 effectively out once Kimi got his time up on the board.
Or not as Kimi locked the right front and went off and missed out his lap with less than 2 minutes left. Vettel was back on track as well to see if he could better his postion prior to his 5 spot penalty. Mad traffic with the runners with work left to do all out as Kimi came round to give it one more shot with 30s left on the clock.
The telly lingered on Raikkonen as he circled torturously and went P6, well down on Vettel. Then, with the checkers long flown, Perez P9…Alonso P8… Massa P12 and then Sainz P8 sticking the knife deep, dispatching Perez from the top 10 and ensuring he would go no further. Or not, as yet again there was a track limits investigation to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, it was Perez, Massa, Grosjean, Gutierrez, Kvyat and Magnussen headed for the showers with the rest turning around for Q3. Other penalties potentially involve Magnussen blocking Kvyat and Verstappen Raikkonen and Magnussen all having gone 4 off.
No matter apparently, as the light went green for Q3 with Rosberg and Hamilton out straightaway. Magnussen remained completely blameless according to him during a telly interview as the cars completed their warm up lap. BANG and they were off again. Dead even S1, Lewis thousandths faster. Hamilton magnificent S2 0.3s up. S3 honours to Rosberg but overall victory to Lewis, though slower than his Q2 lap as they cooled their cars and returned to the pits to prepare for Round 2.
Again Verstappen took P3 and again Ricciardo could not do better, going P4, with Raikkonen and Vettel behind the pair of Red Bulls. Bottas, Sainz, Hulkenberg and then Alonso completed the picture. And then, the fun started as the FIA deleted Hamilton’s time for exceeding track limits. With it all to play for, the clock ticked down with the cars sat in the garage. Just before it hit the 3 minute mark, Hamilton pulled out, first of the runners to embark on his last lap. Gradually the rest of the field trickled out with his teammate running nearly 40s behind him.
S1 was good for Lewis as the prospect of starting P10 lingered should he miss his marks, S2 was not his fastest and as Rosberg started his final lap, Lewis purpled S3…
And across the line with a 1:29.287… Lewis P1, with Rosberg unable to pull it off this time round with S2 being his biggest obstacle. Alonso went P8 to have his time deleted and Vettel was unable to get the jump on his teammate. Bottas, Hulkenberg, Sainz then Alonso set the scene for tomorrow’s race. Verstappen had his time deleted as well, well after the cars rolled into the pits but with no effect as his 2nd lap time was slower than the banker he had set. Or at least until Hulkenberg’s time was deleted, promoting Sainz to P8, which will be P7 once Vettel’s gearbox penalty is applied. Good job yet again by Sainz, who is quietly but effectively getting the job done.
Ferrari well off the pace, Red Bull looking to be closest to challenge means it’s Mercedes’ worst nightmare. With Rosberg having had the better start generally, the possibility of lap 1 chaos looms large, regardless of the new rules instituted by the Silver Arrows. Certainly at the presser both drivers seemed to have absolutely not learned their lesson.
Verstappen looks to have the upper hand in the Red Bull camp and it will again be a torrid race in the midfield. Perhaps some famously changeable weather will show up to ratchet up the show…
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