Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 11. huhtikuuta 2015

Chinese GP / Qualifying: Hamilton conquered pole for the 3rd time this season!

Conditions for qualifying in China were perfect: it was sunny and warm and the temperature was about 19 degrees Celsius. Q1 got underway in quite a typical way: top teams like Mercedes and Ferrari made their first runs on the harder tyre compound whilst the midfield teams came out on the yellow-marked soft tyres right at the beginning of the first session. The Williams drivers Bottas and Massa stayed in their pit garages until there were only about 7 minutes left in the clock. The Mercedes duo were the only drivers who didn´t use soft tyres in Q1 and they still made it easily among the 15 fastest. Sebastian topped the time sheets with his team-mate Kimi second. In terms of the Finns the situation looked good as Bottas was right behind Kimi in P3. Hamilton was 5th and Rosberg 8th but they had set their fastest lap times on the prime tyres. No surprises in terms of the knockout zone: Hulkenberg in his Force India was the first man to be eliminated from Q2. The McLaren duo missed out on the second session as well as the Marussia duo Merhi and Stevens.

Williams´ Bottas was one of the first drivers to set a lap time in Q2 but when Hamilton came out the magic started to happen. Hamilton nailed an unbelievable lap time being 2 seconds faster than the Finn! Rosberg seemed unable to match his team-mate´s pace but ended up being three tenths of a second slower than the Briton. The Ferraris came out not until at the end of the session and the pecking order was clear: first the Mercedes duo then the Ferraris. Both Saubers made it among the top ten which I found a bit surprising. Maldonado was the first man to be knocked out of the final session whilst his team-mate Grosjean made it through to Q3. Kvyat at the wheel of his RB11 had suffered from some power issues during the qualifying and the Russian was out of Q3. So were both Toro Rosso drivers, which was surprising, too as their pace had seemed quite convincing in the free practice sessions.

In the final and decisive last session one thing was clear: Ferrari were unable to carry the fight to Mercedes. The silver cars had a decent edge on sheer speed. Hamilton took provisional pole by 3-tenth margin to his team-mate. Both Ferrari drivers made their first runs on used rubber which meant there was no chance to set competitive lap times. At the closing stages of Q3 Rosberg managed to improve his lap time but there were still 4 hundredths of a second separating him from Hamilton in the Briton´s favor! Rosberg sounded so frustrated on the team radio. The German would desperately have wanted to take the pole but he wasn´t quite fast enough. Sebastian pulled out an impressive lap and he snatched P3 being 9 tenths of a seconds off Hamilton´s pace. Kimi, however, made mistakes in the first sector of his flying lap and was unable to match Sebastian´s lap time. Kimi had had some issues during the out lap so the Finn´s tyre temperatures weren´t optimal on his time lap. Kimi looked absolutely gutted after the qualifying and said in the interview that the result was down to his shitty lap! Without the mistakes the Iceman would have been up there fighting for a second row grid spot. Both Williams drivers made it ahead of Kimi, Massa P4 and Bottas P5 so Kimi had to settle for P6. Kimi ended up being half a second off his team-mate´s pace and that´s a lot! The other Finn, Valtteri Bottas wasn´t satisfied with his lap, either. And you shouldn´t ever be satisfied if you get beaten by your team-mate! Bottas also had a tyre pressure issue: they had gone a little too high on his rear tyre pressures, which led to oversteer. Ricciardo in his Red Bull qualified 7th, Grosjean 8th, Nasr 9th and Ericsson 10th.

Shanghai International Circuit is extremely demanding on tyres so it´ll be interesting to see, whether Ferrari still have an advantage over their rivals in terms of tyre management. Both Mercedes and Ferrari saved one set of soft tyres in the qualifying. Mercedes harvested it already in Q1 as they ran only on the hard tyres. Ferrari saved the set in Q3 as they made their first runs on the used set of soft tyres. In Malaysia Sebastian was able to make one pit stop less than Mercedes, which was a key factor in terms of his victory. Let´s see if Ferrari can repeat this tomorrow. I really hope Ferrari´s race day speed matches what they had in Sepang! Kimi on the other hand once again made his race day a little bit harder as his qualifying was far from perfect. But I sincerely believe that Williams won´t be able to match Ferrari´s race pace. But Williams are scaringly fast on the straights so it won´t be an easy task to overtake those two...

Kimi has now had three poor qualifying sessions this season. The Iceman can´t afford letting this form continue! He has to start delivering also in qualifying sessions, otherwise it´s an easy task for Sebastian to beat him every time. This could be a turning point in Kimi´s career: whether he goes up towards success or his career in F1 starts to fade away. Nevertheless, in spite of all the mistakes, errors and bad luck (though there isn´t such thing in F1 actually) I´ll always support the Iceman no matter what! Difficulties are meant to be overcome, that´s what I strongly believe in!

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