Grand Prix of China – Qualifying

So what’s new since Malaysia?

  • “Fernando Alonso says he has no regrets about his decision to leave Ferrari to join McLaren this season. The 33-year-old two-time world champion, who left Ferrari after five years without a title, saw replacement Sebastian Vettel win only his second race for the team last month.” [BBC] Through gritted teeth?
  • Jenson Button disagrees with Bernie’s proposal for a women-only championship (and I agree with him): “There’s no reason a woman can’t race against guys”. Susie Wolff also doesn’t see the need for one: “I can, hand on heart, say it would not interest me at all to win such a race.” [BBC]
  • Jolyon Palmer, son of former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, to make practice debut with Lotus at Chinese Grand Prix; he’ll temporarily take Romain Grosjean’s seat. [BBC]
  • “English driver Will Stevens is hoping to finally make his Manor debut at the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend. The 23-year-old is yet to drive in qualifying or a race for his new team after they suffered teething problems in Australia and Malaysia.” [BBC]
  • Part of the “Wing” roof at the Silverstone motor racing circuit was damaged by high winds. [BBC]

Free Practice 1 saw drivers testing new settings, parts and racing lines as usual. BUT has a bad back – must be related to all the talk of him retiring 🙂 HAM fastest (1:39.033) followed by ROS, VET, RAI and NAS.

FP2 had an unexpected participant – a spectator run across the track from the main grandstand to the pit wall and almost into the Ferrari garage! Although that wasn’t the cause of red flags (session suspended); that was because MAS lost his Williams under braking for the hairpin and went off into the barriers. KVY’s Red Bull belched flames and then cut across the gravel and tapped the armco. RAI and ROS jostled for position on their out lap; hopefully we’ll see similar competition in the race. HAM was fastest again (1:37.219) with RAI, RIC, VET ahead of his Mercedes teammate (ROS).

FP3 was barely under way when ALO parked his McLaren with an engine problem. Meanwhile teammate BUT is told “the issue is not fixed, so be careful”. HAM has reported that his seat is getting hot – could that be an ERS problem? RIC is pushed into the Red Bull garage with smoke pouring from his rear wheels. HAM fastest again (1:37.615) followed by ROS, VET, RAI and RIC.

OK, on to Quali…

Air temperature 19°C; track 43°C; wind 1.6m/s; humidity 32%
Tyre choices this weekend are: prime = medium (white); option = soft (yellow)

McLaren haven’t made it into Q2 this season, and both BUT and ALO had problems in Free Practice so it’s going to be a struggle, I suspect.

BBC mentioned it’s 22 years ago today since the European Grand Prix at Donington Park – I remember that rain! 🙂
BBC: “Ayrton Senna produced one of the most memorable opening laps of all time in the wet at Donington Park. The McLaren driver famously went from fifth to first in one lap, dispatching the Benetton of Michael Schumacher and then the Sauber of Karl Wendlinger in the opening turns, before making short work of Williams duo Alain Prost and Damon Hill.”

Back to Shanghai…

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
MER and ALO first on track
ALO back to the pits
MER 1:44.911
RAI 1:40.917
VET 1:39.912
HAM 1:38.285 – yes, ~1.7sec faster than VET
NAS on options; goes P3 behind ROS
HUL also on options; P3
STE posts a time, which in itself is an achievement for Manor Marussia
Radio from BUT – rears are overheating
MAL hangs the tail out in his Lotus but keeps it on track
5mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are STE, MER, KVY and no time from BOT and MAS
BOT fighting with his Williams
BOT 1:38.014 (on options)
3mins left; bottom 5 are GRO, RIC, STE, MER, KVY
(RIC P6; relegating MAL)
RAI 1:37.790
Big lockup from KVY
(KVY P7; SAI to P16)
VET 1:37.502
(SAI P8; demotes VES)
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are VES, MAL, GRO, STE, MER
(MAL P9; relegates ALO)
(MER P19 ahead of teammate STE)
(VES P5; pushes BUT to P16)
(GRO P4; now HUL in drop zone too)
(BUT P16)
(ALO P17)
(STE P19)
(HUL P16)
Back of the grid will be: HUL, BUT, ALO, STE, MER.
Disappointing to see both McLarens fail to make it through to Q2

Qualifying session 2 (Q2)
Green light for Q2 to start but no-one heading for the track
ERI first out of the pits
Radio for HAM reminding him that he’ll be going out on race tyres, i.e. this will be the set he starts the race
ERI 1:39.240
BOT 1:38.475
HAM 1:36.423
(ROS P2)
Radio from HAM – seat’s very hot
5mins left of Q2; 4 drivers yet to set a time – both Ferrari (RAI & VET), KVY and PER
(RAI P3)
(VET P3)
2mins left; bottom 5 are MAS, ERI, NAS plus KVY and PER
KVY and PER both on track
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are unchanged
NAS and MAS improve
PER P14
KVY P12
Middle of the grid will be: MAL, KVY, VES, SAI, PER

Qualifying session 2 (Q2)
The top 10 battle is between HAM, ROS, VET, RAI, MAS, BOT, RIC, NAS, GRO & ERI
GRO on used tyres but everyone else on new sets
BOT really fighting the Williams in every turn
GRO 1:39.782
BOT 1:37.903
HAM 1:35.782
ROS P2
MAS P3
RIC P5
RAI P5
5mins left of Q3; order is HAM, ROS, MAS, BOT, RAI, RIC, GRO; no time from VET, GRO, ERI
VET P4
Everyone in the pits, preparing for the final push
Radio for ROS warning him not to drop back too far from VET or he might not be able to start his lap before the chequered flag
VET backing off a little on his out lap – trying to hold up ROS?
Chequered flag
NAS P7
RAI P3
RIC P5
ERI P9
BOT P3
HAM doesn’t improve on his time
MAS P3
GRO P8
VET P3
ROS improves but still P2
Front of the grid: HAM, ROS, VET, MAS, BOT, RAI, RIC, GRO, NAS, ERI
Replay shows RAI struggling with oversteer
NAS hit the rumble strips hard enough to break off some bodywork
Radio for ROS telling him he’s P2 by 0.04sec; ROS: “come on guys”

Provisional grid: HAM, ROS, VET, MAS, BOT, RAI, RIC, GRO, NAS, ERI; MAL, KVY, VES, SAI, PER; HUL, BUT, ALO, STE, MER.

20th all-Mercedes front row of the grid.