Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 1. lokakuuta 2016

Malaysia GP / Qualifying: 8th pole of the season for Hamilton!

There have been some significant track changes at Sepang, which meant, that it was a bit unknown for the teams, as they prepared for the qualifying. The entire track has been resurfaced, and nine corners have been changed since last year. The new asphalt meant more slippery conditions and hotter track temperature.

Q1 got underway seeing different tyre strategies. The Mercedes came out on the yellow-marked soft tyres, whereas both Ferrari drivers made their first runs on the white-marked medium Pirellis. Red Bull copied Ferrari´s tyre strategy. Hamilton was the fastest man in the first segment, and teammate Rosberg was only 16 thousandths of a second off the Briton. Obviously hey had absolutely no need to make a second run. The Force India duo of Perez and Hulkenberg were surprisingly competitive as well, and they decided to sit out the second runs as well. Both Kimi and Sebastian opted for a fresh set of soft tyres at the end of the session. Kimi jumped third and Sebastian fourth. There was only a thousandth of a second separating the Ferrari aces! Out of Q2 were the Saubers of Ericsson and Nasr, Renault´s Palmer, the Manors of Ocon and Wehrlein and McLaren´s Alonso, who has a 45-place grid drop thanks to engine-change penalties. The Spaniard didn´t even try to set a competitive lap time, as fast laps would just have wasted tyres!

To my surprise everyone opted for the soft tyres in Q2. The Mercedes teammates headed out right away, and Hamilton absolutely smashed his teammate by half a second at the beginning of the second session. After the first runs Hamilton and Rosberg were topping the time sheets, with Verstappen and Ricciardo 3rd and 4th. Kimi was fifth and teammate Sebastian sixth. Williams´ Massa was 7th, and they all sat out the second runs. Button made it as high as P8, which was an impressive achievement from the British McLaren pilot, who is now driving his 300th GP weekend! The Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez rounded out the top ten. Finnish Williams pilot Bottas was the first faller in Q2. Out of the last segment were also Haas teammates Grosjean and Gutierrez, Renault´s Magnussen and Toro Rosso teammates Kvyat and Sainz.

In the decisive last segment Rosberg had an off on his first flyer, and the German was only in P5 after the first runs. Hamilton took provisional pole, and the Briton was close to the fastest lap ever recorded at Sepang International Circuit! Red Bull ace Verstappen was second with his teammate Ricciardo third and Kimi fourth. Button made only one run at the end of the last session. Rosberg was able to improve his lap time on his second run, although he had made a small mistake at the final hair-pin. Rosberg jumped second, but was still four tenths of a second down on his teammate. Verstappen failed to improve but held on for third. Teammate Ricciardo had to settle for P4 today. The Ferraris of Vettel and Räikkönen filled out row three, and the Force Indias of Perez and Hulkenberg locked out the fourth row. Button in his McLaren qualified 9th and Massa in his Williams completed the top ten.

I truly believe, that the Silver Arrows could face strong competition in the race, with the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo in striking distance on the second row. Ferrari´s long-run pace has been quite impressive as well. I hope there will be a wheel-banging battle for the podium places tomorrow! One thing is for sure -there will be hot and humid, whether there´ll be rain or not. It will be a hard race in terms of tyres, and tyre management will be one of the key factors tomorrow. Last year Sebastian won the Malaysia GP, which was his first victory in the red team. Repeating that tomorrow would be a dream come true, although I know it might not be realistic to expect that. Once again it´ll be tight between Red Bull and Ferrari... I wouldn´t be upset at all to see Verstappen on the podium, either ;) A podium finish would be a perfect way to celebrate the young man´s 19th birthday!

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