Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia – Qualifying

There are just two races left this season; VER is just 8 points ahead of HAM in the Drivers’ Championship, and Mercedes is only 5 points ahead of Red Bull. VER could win it this weekend, but I suspect it’ll be decided in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Obviously the big news since Qatar was the death of Sir Frank Williams. [BBC] [FIA
It’s a sign of how well respected he was that every F1 team has put the logo of Frank Williams Racing Cars on their cars, and some drivers have it on their helmets.

  • Williams’ team principal, Jost Capito, has tested positive for Covid-19 and will miss the race. [FIA]
  • Cyril Abiteboul finally had the tattoo done after losing a bet with RIC way back in last season [FIA] [video]

Free Practice:

  1. FP1: HAM (1:29.786), VER, BOT, GAS, GIO, SAI, LEC, RIC, ALO, VET
    The drivers like the new circuit – it’s grippy and very quick, but it’s tight, twisty and there’s concrete walls everywhere – I have an uneasy feeling about this weekend
    Quick cars (doing over 200mph) catching slower cars on a cooldown lap also seems like a recipe for disaster
  2. FP2: HAM (1:29.018), BOT, GAS, VER, ALO, OCO, SAI, TSU, PER, LEC
    MAZ hit the kerb at Turn 2 and spun
    SCH wiped some paint off the concrete wall
    Lots of lockups as drivers find the limits
    RUS reports a brake-by-wire (BBW) failure – “The (brake) pedal went straight to the floor” – scary!
    Slow-moving traffic was a problem again
    LEC lost the rear and put his Ferrari backwards into the wall – fortunately it was actually TechPro barrier, not concrete, but it still demolished his car [video]
    The total absence of marshals just adds to my trepidation 🙁
    With only ~4mins left when the red flags came out, FP2 ended early
  3. FP3: VER (1:28.100), HAM, PER, TSU, GAS, BOT, LEC, SAI, OCO, NOR

    HAM ruined GAS’ lap – HAM had finished his quick lap and GAS had to take to the runoff to avoid the Mercedes
    And then MAZ had to cut across the kerbs as the slow-moving HAM held the racing line, unaware the Haas was hurtling up behind him
    Race Director Michael Masi said it was “not great at all” and he’s spoken to Mercedes

HAM has been summoned to the stewards for not respecting double waved yellow flags [tweet] [FIA]
I’m surprised he’s not also facing them for impeding both GAS and MAZ … Oh, he has
Replay of the double yellow incident – the yellow flag was off before HAM reached the light board, so I don’t think there should be a penalty for that
Update: “No further action” for not respecting yellows (Expect complaints from Whiny Spice in 3.. 2..)

BBC report “Fuel leak for Bottas in FP3 means the team have had to change his PU for qualifying. He will now run another from his pool so no penalty.”
5mins before Q1, Mercedes mechanics are still working away on BOT’s car

Qualifying session 1 (Q1)
It’s warm despite the sun having set – Air temperature 28°C; track 31°C
There’s a queue at the end of the pit lane, waiting for the lights to turn green
BOT and HAM leave the garage – great job to replace BOT’s power unit in under two hours
LAT 1:30.490
VET 1:30.389
GIO 1:29.634
HAM had a twitch in Turn 1 and had to cut the kerb
OCO 1:29.508
NOR 1:29.136
VER 1:28.659
(BOT P4)
(PER P2)
HAM 1:28.466
(TSU P3) !
(BOT P2)
SAI 1:28.330
VER 1:28.285
(PER P4)
BOT 1:28.057
VER fighting to get his Red Bull through Turn 1
5mins left of Q1; bottom 5 are RUS, VET, STR, MAZ, LAT
RUS P15, relegating SCH to P16
LAT P16
STR P16
Stewards announce their decision on HAM impeding in FP3: reprimand for HAM and a fine for Mercedes
VET P17
PER 1:28.021
Radio from BOT reporting misfiring; he returns to the pit lane but the engine cuts out just before he reaches his garage
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are STR, VET, LAT, SCH, MAZ
LAT P16
VET P17
SCH P19
STR P18
Back of the grid: LAT, VET, STR, SCH, MAZ
Incident involving GAS and SAI has been noted

Recap of the stewards’ decision on HAM impeding in FP3: reprimand for HAM and a €25,000 fine for Mercedes
(Why didn’t they wait until the gap between Q1 and Q2 to announce this?)

The Mercedes mechanics had to push BOT the last few feet to his pit box; will they be able to fix it in time for Q2?

Qualifying session 2
Another queue forming ready for the start of Q2
Yes, BOT is in the queue
Looks like mostly medium tyres; RUS on softs; OCO, ALO and GIO yet to leave the pits
PER 1:28.861
VER 1:27.953
(LEC P2)
(HAM P3)
SAI’s time deleted for exceeding track limits – first deletion of the weekend
(BOT P2)
Radio from HAM, “I have no grip out here”
(PER P2)
Yellow flag – SAI spun in Turn 11 but recovered; did his rear wing touch the barrier? In the replay it looks like he just swiped across the TehcPro
(HAM P2)
PER 1:27.946
4mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are RUS, GIO, OCO, ALO, SAI
Lots of improvements in times
Radio from NOR saying he was held up; he’s told that was PER
2mins left of Q2; bottom 5 are RIC, RAI, RUS, ALO, SAI
Q1 incident involving GAS and SAI will be investigated after the session
SAI runs wide again
HAM 1:27.712 – why did he put more laps on those tyres?
Chequered flag; bottom 5 are RIC, RAI, ALO, RUS, SAI
Brief yellow flag
RIC P11
RAI P12
ALO P13
Middle of the grid: RIC, RAI, ALO, RUS, SAI
Replay of RAI and BOT touching tyres; Incident has been noted by the stewards
Replay of GIO clouting the wall

Top 10 shootout is between HAM, PER, VER, BOT, TSU, GAS, NOR, LEC, OCO and GIO
Incident involving RAI and BOT – no investigation necessary

Qualifying session 3
Queue forming at the end of the pit lane again
HAM loses the rear but he’s lucky there’s a little runoff area and he gets the Mercedes back under control
BOT 1:28.143
LEC P2
HAM P3
TSU P2
HAM 1:28.035
VER 1:27.653
PER P3
Radio from VER, “I need a tow”
BOT P2
GAS P4
GIO P9
OCO P10
Order after the initial runs: VER, BOT, HAM, GAS, PER, NOR, TSU, LEC, OCO, GIO
HAM 1:27.511
VER brushes the wall
Chequered flag; order is HAM, VER, BOT, PER, GAS, NOR, TSU, LEC, OCO, GIO
GAS P5
OCO 99
BOT P2
GIO P10
VER clouts the wall and breaks his rear-right
LEC P4
Front of the grid: HAM, BOT, VER, LEC, PER, GAS, NOR, TSU, OCO, GIO

Interviews:
HAM: “What a tough track this is. Through FP3 and qualifying I was lacking pace, struggling with the tyres. So for us to get a 1-2 is incredible, we’ve worked so hard. The collaboration has been epic with Valtteri, he’s the best of team mates. Those guys [Red Bull] were so fast. They were rapid today.”
BOT: “I had a struggle in FP3, and I needed a new engine. But in quali all was working fine, so happy. The last lap was on the limit. The track is tough. We need to focus on team championship and Lewis.”
VER: “It feels terrible, we were having a good qualifying, I knew the pace was there. I locked up and I still trying to push, to finish the lap. P3 is disappointing knowing the lap I was on. At least it shows the car is quick. [With regards the gearbox] I don’t know.”

Provisional grid: HAM, BOT, VER, LEC, PER, GAS, NOR, TSU, OCO, GIO, RIC, RAI, ALO, RUS, SAI, LAT, VET, STR, SCH, MAZ

I would say it’s gone from 75% to 100% likelihood that Red Bull will protest HAM not getting a grid penalty

[2021 calendar] [2021 line-up] [Points standings]

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