Grand Prix of America – Qualifying

Many journalists & commentators have been talking about how HAM can seal his 5th World Drivers’ Championship this weekend, because there are just 4 races (including this one) left this season and VET’s chances are fast disappearing. The simplest (arithmetically but maybe not in practice) combination is if he wins on Sunday with VET 3rd or lower then HAM will take the title.

I know the organisers like to refer to this as COTA, the Circuit of the Americas, but that ignores the Grands Prix in Canada and Mexico – really this is either COA (Circuit of America) or OOTCOTA (One of the Circuits of the Americas) 🙂

Tyre choices for this weekend: soft (yellow), supersoft (red), and ultrasoft (purple).

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: HAM (1:47.502), BOT, VER, RIC, VET
    A wet start to the weekend; rain is also forecast for Quali but not for the race
    OCO’s pit crew had a moment when he missed his braking point for the pit box [F1 video]
    Session is red flagged after LEC runs off and brings some of the gravel trap back onto the track
    VET under investigation for not slowing sufficiently when the red flags came out
  2. FP2: HAM (1:48.716), GAS, VER, ALO, HUL (5 cars didn’t set a time)
    More rain == less action
  3. FP3: VET (1:33.797), RAI, HAM, BOT, VER
    At least the rain has stopped
    But HAR still manages to spin his Toro Rosso
    HAM and VET got a little more serious than is usual in FP3, with VET blocking HAM

Penalties:

  • GAS will start from the back of the grid thanks to yet another new engine – he’s now on his 7th engine, turbocharger, MGU-H and his 6th MGU-K. [racefans.net has a handy table]
    Teammate HAR will also get a handful of penalties for engine changes [F1]
  • VET has a 3-place penalty for not slowing sufficiently when FP1 was red flagged [F1]

There’s a 10% chance of rain during Quali
Air temperature 19°C; track 21°C; humidity 75%

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
Toro Rosso of HAR is first out of the pit lane
HAR 1:36.943
GAS 1:36.457
RAI 1:34.938
VET 1:34.569
Race control: GAS’ time disqualified for exceeding track limits in Turn 19
(VER P3)
BOT 1:34.518
HAM 1:34.176
Radio for HAM – “that lap is safe but we’ll go again”
VER is limping back to the pits – looks like a rear suspension failure
5mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are ALO, SIR, ERI, VAN, STR
HAM 1:34.130
Replay shows VER’s right rear suspension brake as he runs over the new yellow “sausage” kerbs
Chequered flag
ALO P13, HAR P16
VAN P17
ERI P15, LEC P16
LEC P10, ERI P16
SIR P16
HAR P15, ALO P16
(GAS P7)
Back of the grid: ALO, SIR, STR, ERI, VAN
However, remember GAS & HAR’s penalties will mean they’re on the last row

Qualifying session 2
Unlikely that VER will make an appearance in Q2 as the mechanics work on his rear suspension
Ditto for GAS and HAR as they won’t make it through to Q3
BOT 1:33.702
(HAM P2)
RAI 1:32.884
(VET P2)
HAM doing another fast lap on the same supersoft tyres
(HAM P3)
Radio from SAI complaining “I got held up by GRO”; told “that as MAG”
3mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are SAI, MAG, GAS*, HAR*, VER … so really it’s only P11 and P12 that’s in doubt
VET, BOT and HAM all on ultrasoft tyres
Chequered flag
SAI can’t improve on P11
Middle of the grid: SAI, MAG, GAS*, HAR*, VER
*GAS and HAR will drop to the back of the grid
Also noteable is that RAI will start the race on his Q2 ultrasoft tyres whereas VET, HAM and BOT will all be on supersofts

Qualifying session 3
Top 10 shootout is between RAI, VET, HAM, BOT, RIC, LEC, GRO, OCO, PER and HUL
The Ferrari pair follow BOT out of the pit lane
BOT 1:32.686
HUL P2
HAM 1:32.567
RAI P3
OCO P5
VET P2
PER P7
GRO P5
RIC P5
After 1 lap, order is: HAM, VET, BOT, RAI, RIC, GRO, HUL, OCO, PER, with LEC yet to set a time
3mins left; cars are heading out for a final run
Radio from RAI reporting spots of rain on the back straight; told that there’s nothing on the forecast
BOT P2
HUL P6
RAI 1:32.307
HAM 1:32.237
OCO P6
GRO P8
VET P2
LEC P9
Front of the grid: HAM, VET*, RAI, BOT, RIC, OCO, HUL, GRO, LEC, PER

Interviews
HAM: “These guys (Ferrari) are close”; asked about his starting tyres “we’ll have to see”
VET: “Bit of a shame” to miss P1 by 0.06sec; “pretty happy”
RAI: “Pretty positive day”; “far from ideal”; “try to make a good start and see what we can do from there”

Provisional grid: HAM, VET*, RAI, BOT, RIC, OCO, HUL, GRO, LEC, PER, SAI, MAG, GAS*, HAR*, VER, ALO, SIR, STR, ERI, VAN
*Remember there are penalties to be applied for VET, GAS and HAR

HUL: you can feel the wind change from one corner to another
RIC: “turn 1’s wide and there’ll be something going on”; “I’ll try and make something happen”
OCO: “my motivation is as high as can be”
VER: “I touched the outside kerb and the suspension failed – it’s a bit weird”; “hope we can clear the midfield quickly”
LEC: “very happy, obviously” (starting P9)

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