Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 2. heinäkuuta 2016

Austrian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton on pole in wet-dry qualifying!

Today´s qualifying at the Red Bull Ring definitely didn´t lack dramatic turns. First of all, Rosberg had crashed his Mercedes in the morning´s free practice session. The German had had a rear suspension failure when taking too much of the high kerb stones, which caused him to hit the barriers with significant damage to his car. However, the Mercedes mechanics managed to repair Rosberg´s car on time with the help of Hamilton´s mechanics as well.  Perez was forced to retire his Force India early on with a suspected rear suspension failure. Not much later, Toro Rosso´s Kvyat had a severe crash! The unlucky Russian had also a rear suspension failure caused by the high kerb stones. The suspension failure ended up catapulting the Toro Rosso driver in the tyre wall. After a brief red-flag period the session was restarted with just 1m 44s left on the clock. There was immediate drama as Sainz´s Toro Rosso´s engine appeared to blow up. Yellow flags meant that nobody was able to improve their lap times at the end of the first session. Rosberg topped the timesheets with Ferrari´s Vettel second, two-tenths down on Rosberg. An eye-catching surprise was Manor´s Wehrlein, who managed to make it as high as P10 in Q1! Very impressive indeed. The drop outs in this session were both Renault drivers, Manor´s Haryanto, both Sauber drivers and naturally Kvyat, who had crashed out.

When Q2 got underway, the risk of rain increased. So everyone rushed out as soon as the light at the pit entry turned green. The Mercedes duo came out on the purple-marked ultrasoft tyres and Hamilton was setting the pace with his teammate second. Cleverly, Ferrari ran both Sebastian and Kimi on the red-marked supersoft tyres, meaning they can use them to start their races tomorrow. That was the case in terms of the Red Bull drivers Ricciardo and Verstappen as well. Mercedes, however, gambled too long on making the same switch from ultrasofts to supersofts. Rain started to fall at the end of Q2, making it impossible to improve lap times. In addition to the four top teams (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Williams), Force India´s Hulkenberg and McLaren´s Button made it among the top ten.

The beginning of the decisive Q3 was delayed by a few minutes due to the rain. When light turned green, everyone came out on the green-marked intermediate tyres. The times were improving every lap as conditions improved. The track dried so fast that at the end of the session everyone pitted for a fresh set of ultrasoft tyres. Massa, Räikkönen, Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Vettel all had turns at the top, but in the end it was the reigning world champion Hamilton, who clinched pole in Spielberg! Rosberg qualified second, and Force India´s Hulkenberg took surprising third! Sebastian at the wheel of his SF16-H was fourth, and McLaren´s Button was responsible for another surprise by making it as high as P5! Kimi in the second Ferrari was 6th, Ricciardo in his Red Bull 7th, Williams´  Bottas 8th, Verstappen in the second Red Bull 9th and Bottas´ teammate Massa 10th. However, both Sebastian and Rosberg have been handed a 5-place grid penalty for unscheduled gearbox changes, which will drop Rosberg down to P7 and Sebastian to P9. So the penalties mean, that Hulkenberg in his Force India will start to the Austrian GP from the front row alongside Hamilton! Button gets to start from sensational P3 alongside Kimi.

Mercedes has suffered from massive tyre degradation in Spielberg in terms of the ultrasoft tyres. In the morning´s free practice session Hamilton was able to run only 5 laps on the ultrasofts, until they were completely gone. This probably means, that the Mercedes drivers will have an extremely short first stint in the race; whereas both Ferraris and both Red Bulls can run a lot longer on the supersofts. So strategy wise it´s going to be a very interesting race. Although the weather might have an influence on the tyre degradation as well. Today it was extremely hot in Spielberg (27 degrees Celsius), but for tomorrow the weather forecast predicts only 15 degrees Celsius. There´s also another question in my mind: how many suspension failures are we going to see in the race? The yellow kerbs are there for a reason; the drivers must respect the track limits. Hitting the kerbs causes severe damage to the car, as we´ve seen both in the free practices and in the qualifying.

I don´t believe Hulkenberg´s and Button´s race pace is too good, so Kimi has a crucial mission at the start: to storm past those two right away as the lights go out! I strongly believe, that Kimi is able to challenge Hamilton for the lead as well! I´m definitely looking forward to an eventful and thrilling race. Sebastian will fight for a podium finish, and Verstappen will hopefully offer a stunning overtaking show!

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