Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

lauantai 14. huhtikuuta 2018

Chinese GP / Qualifying: The red team shone in Shanghai!

This weekend I´ve had my F1 studio at hospital. Today I woke up early, made myself a cup of coffee and put my head phones on. I was trying to keep quiet when watching the qualifying, as my son was still sleeping next to me. But it was extremely difficult, as the shootout for pole was a staggering thriller!

After Ferrari had been dominating in the heat of Bahrain, I expected Mercedes to bounce back in the cooler conditions of Shanghai. I was absolutely amazed to see, that it wasn´t the case! Sebastian at the wheel of his Loria went fastest on his first run, followed by his teammate Kimi, who was three tenths down on him. Bottas was the leading Mercedes, massive seven tenths down on pace-setter Sebastian! Teammate Hamilton was surprisingly a second off the pace! Against all odds the cooler conditions of Shanghai appeared to hamper Mercedes. Red Bull, once again, faced reliability woes. Ricciardo had had a suspected turbo failure in the last free practice, and the team did everything they could to get the Australian out in Q1. There were only three minutes in the clock, when the Honey Badger headed out from his pit box. Ricciardo managed to scrape through to Q2, but just two places above the drop zone. The top eight (Vettel, Räikkönen, Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Hulkenberg and Ocon) sat out the second runs. Toro Rosso´s Gasly couldn´t repeat his Bahrain heroics, as his final lap in Q1 was only good enough for 17th, whilst teammate Hartley was the last driver to make it through to Q2. Other drivers eliminated from the second segment were the Williams duo of Sirotkin and Stroll and the Sauber duo of Leclerc and Ericsson.

Both Mercedes and Ferrari opted for a similar tyre strategy in Q2, as both top teams came out on the yellow-marked soft Pirellis. The red team showed excellent performance on the more durable rubber as well; Kimi topped the timesheets after the first runs, with teammate Sebastian second. Bottas was six tenths and Hamilton a second down on the Iceman. Red Bull, even though they made their runs on the purple-marked ultrasoft compound, were unable to match Ferrari´s and Mercedes´ pace. The Mercedes teammates made their second run on a fresh set of soft tyres. It seemed, as if Mercedes had found their "party mode" again, as Hamilton went fastest. Bottas jumped second, a one-and-a-half tenths down on the Briton. Both Kimi and Sebastian came out on the ultrasofts and were both on course to go quicker, but they aborted their laps. This meant, that all top four drivers will start to the race on the softs. Haas´ Magnussen was the first driver to be knocked out of the pole shootout, whilst teammate Grosjean in P6 made it among the top ten. Force India´s Ocon, the McLaren duo of Alonso and Vandoorne and Toro Rosso´s Hartley were out of the last decisive phase.

Kimi was absolutely on flames in Q3. For the 99 per cent of  the last segment it looked like Kimi would become the oldest pole sitter in 25 years! The Iceman took first blood, setting the fastest time in all three sectors, which meant a new track record at Shanghai. Teammate Sebastian was over a tenth off the pace after his first run. However, Mercedes seemed to be struggling more on the softer tyres, and the Silver Arrows were both four tenths off Kimi´s staggering pace. Red Bull were even further behind, as Verstappen was six and Ricciardo seven tenths adrift. It was obvious, that it was down to the Ferraris to battle it out for pole. And what a battle it turned out! On his second attempt, Kimi blitzed the first two sectors, but Sebastian was only 0.098s adrift! Sebastian had an absolutely magical last sector, and the German snatched his 52nd career pole by 0.087s to the Iceman! So Sebastian made it a new track record again! Once again Bottas was the leading Mercedes in third, leaving teammate Hamilton 4th. Red Bull locked out the third row, with Verstappen 5th and Ricciardo 6th. Hulkenberg made it 7th for Renault and Perez 8th for the pink Force India. Renault´s Sainz and Haas´ Grosjean completed the top ten.

Kimi is definitely in an impressive form, as the Iceman has made it on the front row in all three races this season! This was the second successive front row lock-out for the red team, which has made me think, whether it´s really true, that Mercedes are losing their dominance in the sport. Kimi´s compatriot Bottas has showed superb performance as well. The Finn has out-qualified his teammate in four qualifying sessions out of five! I´m sure both Sebastian and Kimi have high hopes to win the race tomorrow. I am happy to see either one of them on the top step of the podium! Kimi would definitely deserve the win after all the difficulties! However, I believe Mercedes´ race pace is better than their single-lap pace, and for sure they will put up a tight fight for the victory. Can´t wait to wake up tomorrow morning to watch my heroes fight for the glory in the land of dragons!

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