Grand Prix of Malaysia – Qualifying

Round 2 of the 2015 season, following on from HAM’s win in Australia. In those two weeks:

  • The German Grand Prix has been dropped from the 2015 schedule after Nurburgring went bust and Hockenheim could agree terms with Bernie in time. [FIA]
    (Hockenheim will still host the 2016 German GP.)
  • Van der Garde says F1 dream over as Sauber contract cancelled [BBC]
  • It looks like the grid should be back to full strength with BOT returning to Williams after his back problems and both Marussias taking part in free practice
  • ALO has reclaimed his seat at McLaren, although it’s still unclear what happened with his pre-season accident – McLaren say the car had no issues but ALO claims the steering locked and he was conscious throughout until he was sedated for the helicopter ride to hospital. Very suspicious – why would they sedate him if he was fine and then ALO saw medical specialists, which all makes me think ALO is lying. Not a great way to start a new driver/team relationship, but then I’m still amazed McLaren signed him after what he did last time.

Anyway, on to Qualifying; it’s starting earlier than previous years (as is the race) to try to avoid issues with weather and light.

Air temperature 33°C; track 55°C; it’s looking cloudy; lightning in the distance?
Tyre choices: prime=hard (orange); option=medium (white)

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Green lights to start the 18 minute session; 5 cars will be eliminated at the end of Q1
Radio for HUL – shower clouds building up
VES first on track in the Toro Rosso
BBC report STE has a fuel pressure problem in his Marussia
VES locks up on the final turn before starting his quick lap
FIA doing a very poor job of showing lap times
HAM 1:39.269
VET fighting with the Ferrari
MER runs wide in the Marussia; he’s expected to be close to the 107% cut-off time
BUT P17 – McLaren looking like they struggling to get through to Q2 again
7mins left of Q1; still a lack of timing info from FIA feed
Sky is looking quite dark
FIA feed no longer showing the clock, let alone timing info 🙁
STE has not yet set a time
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are MAL, ALO, BUT, MER, STE
Finally we get to see lap times!
ALO can’t improve on his time
BUT P17 ahead of ALO
MAL to P7, relegating GRO
GRO P6, pushing NAS to P16
Back of the grid: NAS, BUT, ALO, MER, STE
Radio from BUT – can’t get the tyres working in Turn 1
MER is outside the 107% and STE didn’t set a time, so both will need the stewards approval to race tomorrow

Qualifying session 2 (Q2)
Queue forming at pit exit waiting for the start of the 15 minute Q2 session
Green lights; VET first on track
Only HUL and PER are still in the pits
RAI dropped back from VET before starting his quick lap; HAM ready to begin his lap but has to hold back to make room behind RAI
Radio for MAS – rain is coming; drops in turns 7 and 8
VET 1:39.632
ROS 1:39.377
HAM 2secs slower than ROS because of his positioning on that lap – too close to RAI
Rain falling
Bottom 5 are RAI, MAL, PER, SAI
Replay shows ERI held up RAI on the final turn
Pouring down
8mins left of Q2 but the rain means everyone is in the pits
Radio from HAM – frustrated that the team got him out too late for Q2; told there was a problem firing up the engine
Chequered flag
Middle of the grid: RAI, MAL, HUL, PER, SAI

Race control: next session will be delayed by a minimum of 15 minutes
I don’t understand why the FIA schedule the GP at this time of year given it always rains in the afternoon.
Rain still coming down pretty hard
Mechanics preparing their cars with wet set ups; they have to balance the set up for Q3 with what they expect to need in the race
Still raining but easing up a little
Drivers getting ready to get back in their cars
Mechanics drying their pit boxes – it’s not raining in the pits but what about the rest of the track?
Safety Car heading out to check the track
SC kicking up big rooster tails
SC into pit lane & parks
Race control: Q3 start delayed again
Rain continues to ease up
SC out again; race control Q3 will start at 1815 local time

Qualifying session 3 (Q3)
Battling over the top 10 spots are ROS, VET, BOT, RIC, GRO, MAS, VES, HAM, KVY, ERI
Both Williams cars at pit exit; they’re both on the blue-walled full wet tyres
VET and RIC heading out of the pits on green intermediate tyres
Surprising to see so many cars waiting for Q3 to start – are they expecting more rain?
Green lights; BOT leads the small group onto the track
Radio for BOT – no big wet spots; already thinking about inters
VET on inters faster than BOT on full wets in both Sectors 1 and 2
BOT aborts his lap; pits for inters
VET 1:53.178
ERI P2
KVY P2
RIC P4
ROS 1:51.066
HAM 1:49.834
VES P3
VET P3
RIC P5
5mins left of Q3; order is HAM, ROS, VET VES, RIC, KVY, ERI; no time yet from BOT, GRO and MAS
ROS backs off; is he trying to disrupt HAM’s lap?
HAM backs off too, having passed ROS
ERI P6
Radio from ROS asking about HAM’s lines; engineer says he’s not allowed to help with that
Chequered flag
VET P2
HAM’s backed off again in sector 2
RIC P4
BOT P7
MAS P6
GRO P8
ROS still P3
VES P6
Front of the grid: HAM, VET, ROS, RIC, KVY, VES, MAS, GRO, BOT, ERI

Provisional grid: HAM, VET, ROS, RIC, KVY, VES, MAS, GRO, BOT, ERI; RAI, MAL, HUL, PER, SAI; NAS, BUT, ALO, MER*, STE*
*MER is outside the 107% and STE didn’t set a time, so both will need the stewards approval to race tomorrow

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