Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 26. syyskuuta 2015

Japanese GP / Qualifying: Mercedes back on top form!

It was quite an early morning in Finland when pre-qualifying broadcasts got underway. But I became so so happy when I noticed that Sebastian Vettel´s ex trainer Tommi Pärmäkoski had been invited to join the F1 studio. It was so exciting and entertaining to hear him telling stories behind the scenes. He worked with Sebastian for 3,5 years so he really knows Sebastian like his own pockets.

When qualifying got underway one thing was certain: Mercedes were back on top form! All the struggling they had in Singapore now seemed to be distant history. Hamilton set the pace in the first segment with his team-mate second. I was happy how well Kimi could match Mercedes´ pace as the Iceman was only half a second down on Hamilton. Ferrari and Williams were quite evenly matched on their first runs as Bottas was 4th and Sebastian 5th. Those times were set on the orange-marked hard tyres. Surprisingly, both Hamilton and Rosberg made second runs on the hard tyres although it wouldn´t have been necessary. The Ferrari team-mates and Williams´ Bottas instead decided to sit out the second runs. In the last minute of the first session Toro Rosso´s Verstappen lost power and stopped at an odd angle at the hairpin and it naturally caused yellow flags. How disappointing for Verstappen, who was in P8 at the moment! But the technical failure meant that the Dutchman´s qualifying was over. Button led those who failed to make it through to Q2. Both Sauber drivers as well as the Marussia duo were out of the second session.

Q2 saw everyone coming out on the white-marked medium compound. This time Rosberg turned the tables and set the fastest lap time ahead of his team-mate Hamilton, who was less than a tenth of a second down on his team-mate. Kimi was third 7 tenths down on Rosberg. Only a few hundredths of a second separated Kimi, Massa and Bottas so it was extremely tight between Ferrari and Williams. It was no surprise that Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams decided to sit out the second runs. Those top three teams had absolutely no difficulties to make it into the final session. Hulkenberg, Sainz, Maldonado and Alonso got knocked out of the final segment.

Rosberg took provisional pole but there were only 76 thousandths of a second separating the German from his team-mate, who had made a mistake on his flying lap. Bottas in his Williams pulled out an impressive lap and made it P3 on his first run. Sebastian´s lap left a little more to hope for and he was only 4th fastest. Kimi didn´t feel as confident as in the previous sessions and the Iceman couldn´t make it higher than P6 on his first run. The Ferrari duo was split by Massa in his Williams. Kvyat at the wheel of his Red Bull and Force India´s Perez opted for one run only. However, the final segment ended in dramatic fashion. In the last minute of the session the Russian Red Bull driver Kvyat lost control of his Red Bull approaching to the hairpin,tearing off both wheels and flipping before coming to rest. The session was immediately red-flagged. Amazingly, Kvyat managed to walk away unharmed from the wreckage of his heavily-damaged RB11. It seemed that the Russian himself was at fault: he had put a wheel on the grass, which caused him to lose control of his car. As there were only 38 seconds left in the clock it was decided that the red-flagged session would not be restarted. That meant no one could improve their lap times so Rosberg took pole with Hamilton second and Bottas third. Sebastian qualified 4th, Massa 5th, Kimi 6th, Ricciardo 7th, Grosjean 8th, Perez 9th and Kvyat 10th. After the qualifying I read that Red Bull need to change Kvyat´s chassis so the Russian will start to the race from the pit lane.

I was so confident that Kimi was fighting for P3 today so it was very unfortunate for him that the session was red-flagged. And Suzuka isn´t known as a circuit of many overtaking possibilities... It´s interesting to see how Williams´ race pace will turn out. It hasn´t always been as good as their qualifying pace. However, I don´t think there´s anyone who can seriously challenge the Mercedes duo in the normal dry conditions. But you never know how the weather turns out in Japan... Sebastian seemed so disappointed after the qualifying so I think he´ll do everything he possibly can to take the fight to both Williams and Mercedes!

I can´t wait for tomorrow´s pre-race broadcasts and to hear more of those great stories behind the scenes from Tommi!

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