Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 24. maaliskuuta 2018

Australian GP / Qualifying: Hamilton blew his opposition away by storming on pole!

Finally the long winter hibernation was over and it was time to start the engines again! What an awesome feeling it was to wake up in the morning, knowing that it was time for the season-opening qualifying! A large cup of dark-roasted coffee, coffee-flavoured ice-cream and Formula 1 action made my morning perfect again.

In Q1 everyone came out on the purple-marked ultrasoft tyres. Kimi at the wheel of his brand new SF71-H showed top form right from the beginning and went fastest on his first run. Teammate Sebastian hit the traffic on his first flyer, which prevented the German to match the Iceman´s lap time. However, with five minutes remaining in the clock, Mercedes´  Hamilton put together a superb lap and topped the timesheets, leaving Kimi over two tenths adrift. Renault proved to had taken a significant step forward in terms of performance, as Sainz made it as high as P6 on the closing stages of the first segment. Hamilton´s teammate Bottas was left in P8 in the opening session. Quite expectedly, out of Q2 were the Toro Rosso duo of Hartley and Gasly, the Sauber duo of Ericsson and Leclerc and Williams´ rookie Sergey Sirotkin.

Q2 saw different tyre strategies and tight battle in terms of the top three teams. The Red Bulls mixed it up in the second session, with Verstappen and Ricciardo the only two drivers opting to run the super softs in the session, giving them an alternative strategy as they will start the race on that tyre. Hamilton went fastest on his first flyer, leaving closest rival Kimi four tenths adrift. However, Sebastian seemed to have found the rhythm on his second attempt, and the German topped the timesheets! Hamilton was only a tenth down on the flying Ferrari ace, followed by his teammate Bottas. The Red Bull duo of Verstappen and home hero Ricciardo could easily make it into the decisive last segment, in spite of running the harder compound. Eye-catching was the fact, that the pink Force India´s performance had dramatically dropped from last year! Both Perez and Ocon were eliminated from Q3, alongside the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne and Williams´ Stroll.

You could really feel the tension and the excitement, as the final segment got underway. And what a dramatic turn the final session got! After starting his very first flyer, the rear-left tyre of Bottas´ W09 touched the grass on Turn 2 and the Finn lost control of his Mercedes, causing him to crash heavily into the wall! The session was red-flagged, and Bottas´ qualifying was over. What a frustrating moment for the Finn, who had had high hopes for the season-opening qualifying! It took some time to clear the vast amount of debris that had been scattered across the track. As the session resumed, there was electrifying battle between the top three teams. After the first runs Mercedes´ Hamilton, Ferrari´s Sebastian and Red Bull´s Verstappen were all separated by 61 thousandths of a second only! The shootout for pole couldn´t have been any more exciting!... Until Hamilton came out for his second attempt. The Briton blew his opposition away by improving his lap time by eight tenths! It was an absolute masterclass by Hamilton. A very well-deserved fifth successive pole position in Australia. Kimi´s top form continued through out the qualifying, and the Iceman made it on the front row, although over six tenths down on the pole-setter Hamilton. The battle between the red warriors was extremely tight, as Sebastian qualified third, only a hundredth of a second down on his teammate. So it was very strong performance from the red team indeed! Verstappen and Ricciardo qualified 4th and 5th, but the Australian has been handed a 3-place grid penalty for a speeding offence in practice. This will drop him to eighth in the race starting order, handing Magnussen Haas´s best-ever grid slot in fifth. Magnussen´s teammate Grosjean will start alongside his teammate on the third row. It still remains to be seen, whether Bottas´  W09 needs a gear-box change, which would cause a grid penalty. It really was mixed fortunes for the Silver Arrows in qualifying today!

Statistically pole position doesn´t play as major a role in Melbourne as it plays on some other venues. Although Mercedes´ (Hamilton´s) qualifying pace was in a class of their own, the race pace of the three top teams should be more evenly matched. Kimi and Sebastian have every chance to challenge Hamilton for victory, if not a 1-2! It´s interesting to see, whether Verstappen´s different tyre strategy will help the Dutchman to gain positions in the race. If there is rain in the race, it will definitely benefit the flying Dutchman and increase his chances to make it on the podium. No matter whether Bottas starts from P10 or further back on the grid, the Finn will have a huge challenge ahead of him. A mistake like today´s never looks good. But the fact is, that everyone makes mistakes at some point. The crucial thing is, how Bottas is able to turn a setback like this into success and not to let the mistake haunt him. Competing against a teammate like Lewis Hamilton easily makes you try too much, which leads into making mistakes. Looking forward to an intense race, hopefully coloured in red!

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti