Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 16. huhtikuuta 2016

Chinese GP / Qualifying: Rosberg conquered pole in a dramatic qualifying!

Before the Chinese GP weekend the FIA officially confirmed that the unpopular elimination-style qualifying format used in Australia and Bahrain will be dropped for the rest of the season, reverting instead to the system used last year.

After the morning´s heavy rain the track was still partly damp when qualifying got underway. Most of the drivers ventured out initially on intermediate tyres. However, the Manor drivers Haryanto and Wehrlein headed out on supersoft tyres. Soon there was drama on track: Wehrlein hit a bump on a wet patch on the pit straight, causing his MR05 to snap sideways and hit the barriers. The session was red flagged for 22 minutes as there was debris on the track. Q1 saw more drama as Mercedes driver Hamilton complained of a down-on-power engine, which prevented the Briton setting a time. As if a 5-place grid penalty for a gear box change hadn´t been enough for Hamilton! The cruel fact is, that Hamilton will start to the race from the back of the grid! The top teams came out not until at the end of the session. The Ferrari teammates Vettel and Räikkönen topped the time sheets in Q1 with Williams´ Bottas third and Rosberg down in sixth. Renault´s Magnussen and Palmer were eliminated in the first session, so were Haas´ Gutierrez and Wehrlein´s teammate Haryanto.

The second segment didn´t lack drama, either. Mercedes´ Rosberg made his first and only run on yellow-marked soft tyres; a strategic gamble that will allow him to start the race on the more durable soft rubber.  Everyone else came out on red-marked super softs. There was more drama at the end of the segment. With 1 minute 17 seconds left in the clock, Force India´s Hulkenberg stopped on track due to losing his left-front wheel. The red flags fell at just the wrong time for  Williams´ Massa, who had to abandon his flying lap and therefore was unable to make it into Q3. McLaren teammates Alonso and Button were also casualties of the red flag incident. Both Sauber drivers and Haas´ Grosjean were also out of Q3. Ironically, Hulkenberg had set a lap time competitive enough to make it among the top ten but due to losing the wheel he was unable to continue in the qualifying. This time I was delighted to see Kimi topping the time sheets with Sebastian second. It was so promising to see Ferrari match Mercedes´ pace so well...

Kimi´s first run in Q3 was brilliant and the Iceman made it on the top. Sebastian, on the other hand, sat out the first runs and made only one attempt at the end of the session. Rosberg, however, got everything together on his second flyer and finished half a second up on Red Bull´s Ricciardo, who sprung a surprise to keep the Ferraris off the front row! There were only 6 hundredths of a second separating Ricciardo and Kimi, who finished third. This time Sebastian got beaten by his Finnish teammate and had to settle for P4. Kimi had been seriously challenging Rosberg in the first two sectors on his second run, but made a mistake at the hair pin, which cost the Finn a few tenths at least. Sebastian´s flying lap wasn´t clean, either. Williams´ Bottas drove an excellent qualifying as well, making it fifth. Red Bull´s Kvyat finished 6th, Force India´s Perez 7th and the Toro Rosso duo Sainz and Verstappen finished 8th and 9th.

Tomorrow´s race will be really interesting especially in terms of the tyre strategy. Will Rosberg be able to make a perfect start on the soft tyres or do his closest rivals on the super softs have an advantage over the current championship leader? The Shanghai circuit is extremely hard on tyres, so the super soft tyres won´t last more than 10 laps maybe... I hope both Kimi and Sebastian will take super starts like in Australia and storm past Ricciardo coming into the first corner! Hamilton mustn´t be written out of the race, either. Although he has to make his way through the pack, we know what this ambitious Briton is capable of. What I would love to see is a red podium with a little touch of blue; 1-2 for Ferrari and Toro Rosso´s Verstappen third ;) ;)

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