Grand Prix of Malaysia – Qualifying

Just 7 points separate Rosberg and Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship after ROS’ win in Singapore, and it’s possible for Mercedes to tie up the Constructors’ Championship this race weekend.

Since then the only significant news is that the provisional 2017 calendar has been announced but the races in Brazil, Canada & Germany races are not confirmed (which usually seems to mean Bernie is trying to extract more money from them).

McLaren are following Mercedes’ trick of making a heap of engine changes at once so Alonso is expected to get a total of 30-place grid penalties. Interestingly (but not unexpectedly) new regulations for next year are going to close that engine loophole.

It’ll be BUT’s 300th race start tomorrow, so hopefully he qualifies well. And VES turns 19 years old this weekend.

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: –
    MAG had to jump out of his Renault after a fuel leak caused a fire in the pit lane. [video]
  2. FP2: HAM (1:34.944), ROS, VET, RAI, VES
    Amazingly the Renault mechanics managed to get MAG’s car cleaned, repaired and he’s able to take part in FP2
    Then again, BUT would probably have been happy if MAG had stayed in the garage and out of his way
  3. FP3: HAM (1:34.434), VES, ROS, RAI, VET
    More lock ups and spins.

Qualifying is about to start; air temperature 30°C; track 42°C; humidity 68% and it’s overcast, with the teams talking about rain potentially during Quali.

Despite the penalties, ALO will actually use an old engine for Quali and the race; McLaren introduced them in Practice so they’d have the parts available for future races whilst minimising the impact of the penalties.

There’s a lot of concrete dust on the right side of the main straight after a car dropped oil in a support race. There’s also still signs of extinguisher dust in the Renault pit box after MAG’s fire. A good downpour (not unusual at this track) should probably clean up both.

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Why is HAM doing a practice start on the dust at pit out? He got away cleanly, so maybe it’s quite a smart idea in case the grid doesn’t clean up before the race tomorrow.
WEH 1:36.999
HAM drove through the dust on the main straight – that can’t be a mistake because his engineer reminded him it was there before he reached it
ROS 1:34.460
HAM 1:34.444 and drives through the dust again
Everyone else is avoiding the dust
BUT spins in the final turn; complains about traffic
VET also drives through the dust as he goes P3
Yellow flags seem to pop up and disappear a lot – 5mins in to Q1 and I think I’ve seen 5 yellows
GRO’s right wing mirror came lose, then flies off and seems to hit his helmet as it escapes
BUT complaining OCO blocked him so badly he should get a penalty
5mins left of Q1; bottom 6 are GUT, ERI, NAS, WEH, ALO, OCO
Both Ferraris (currently P9 and P10) heading out for another run
Everyone lower than that on track too, except GRO (P13) and ALO (P21) but with a ton of penalties
GRO finally gone out too
Chequered flag; bottom 6 are GUT, OCO, ERI, WEH, NAS, ALO
NAS goes P16; PAL to P17
ERI P16; NAS back to P17
Back of the grid: ERI, NAS, PAL, OCO, WEH, ALO

Qualifying session 2
Radio for HAM reminding him that he’ll be starting the race on whichever set of tyres he uses to set his fastest Q2 time
ROS 1:33.609 despite the tail stepping out a little in the final turn
HAM 1:33.046
RIC P3
VES P3
5mins left of Q2; bottom 6 are BUT, GRO, GUT, MAG, SAI, KVY
Top 7 sitting in their garages as everyone else heads out for a final run
Chequered flag; bottom 6 are BUT, GRO, GUT, MAG, SAI, KVY
BUT up to P8, relegating HUL to P11
HUL P7, pushes BOT down to P11
KVY improves to P15
Middle of the grid: BOT, GRO, GUT, MAG, KVY, SAI
Radio for BUT – engineer starts to tell him they’re P8 but BUT excitedly says “that was a good lap” 🙂

Qualifying session 3
PER 1:35.173
VET 1:33.916
VES 1:33.420
RAI P2
RIC P2
HUL P6
ROS P4 – he ran wide out of Turn 5
HAM 1:32.850
MAS P7
5mins left; order is: HAM, VES, RIC, RAI, ROS, VET, MAS, PER, HUL; no time yet from BUT
ROS makes a brake bias change just as he’s about to enter the final turn at the end of his out lap
ROS P2
VES P3
HAM has backed off – his pole position is safe
BUT P7
RIC P4
VET P5
HUL P8
RAI abandons his lap and heads for the pits
Front of the grid: HAM, ROS, VES, RIC, VET, RAI, PER, HUL, BUT, MAS

Provisional grid: HAM, ROS, VES, RIC, VET, RAI, PER, HUL, BUT, MAS, BOT, GRO, GUT, MAG, KVY, SAI, ERI, NAS, PAL, OCO, WEH, ALO*
*ALO’s penalties make no difference, which is why the rules will change for next year.

Glad to see BUT qualify well for his 300th race start tomorrow. He’s joking even more than usual in interviews. 🙂