(Image source: Reuters/Albert Gea)
The Formula One community was waiting with bated breath for this weekend’s qualifying. A lot of teams were slated to bring in major upgrades to their cars after the conclusion of the initial segment of the season. The track temperature at the start of Q1 was 27.3 degree Celsius with humidity at 75.5% hinting at a good chance of rain.
Williams' Lance Stroll was first out on track while Vettel was quickest in the early stages setting a time of 1:17.606. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen soon topped that but Vettel went quicker again. Max Verstappen showed promise when he was just 0.38s adrift of Vettel’s new lap record of 1.17.031.
Hulkenberg seemed to have a gearbox issue but did not bow out of qualifying without a fight. Towards the end of Q1, with four minutes left, Vettel occupied first place, followed by Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen in second and third, respectively. Both the Mercedes were languishing in fifth and sixth positions with Hamilton outperforming Bottas. Alonso, in his upgraded Mclaren was outperforming his teammate who escaped elimination by the skin of his teeth at the end of Q1. Hulkenberg, Ericsson, Sirotkin, and Stroll were eliminated from Q1 with Brendon Hartley unable to set a time due to his accident in FP3.
At the start of Q2, both the Mercedes and Hass cars started out on soft tyres with Grosjean posting the first time of the session with a 1:18.069. This could be strategically important for these cars who might look at a longer first stint on the softs tomorrow. Vettel began his run with a quickest time of 1:17.166 but was soon beaten by Bottas, who was then beaten by Raikkonen. Vettel responded with a 1:16.802 which was 0.269 faster than his teammate. Bottas, Hamilton and Ricciardo set the fastest times in the three sectors of the track, respectively. The second session ended with Vandoorne, Gasly, Ocon, Leclerc and Perez all bowing out. Alonso impressively beat his teammate and thus brought Mclaren into Q3 for the first time this season.
Q3 began with expectations of Vettel grabbing his fourth consecutive pole of the season but that was not to be with Hamilton setting an early quickest time of 1:16.491. Both Ferraris seemed to struggle for pace on the supersofts with Raikkonen messing up his hot lap and Vettel 0.7s off the pace setter. The Ferraris seemed to lose pace in this session as Hamilton grabbed pole with Bottas close behind. Vettel qualified third ahead of Raikkonen. The Red Bulls locked the third row with Verstappen and Ricciardo taking P5 and P6, respectively. Magnussen qualified seventh while Alonso grabbed an impressive P8 with the last two spots being occupied by Sainz and Grosjean.
Can Ferrari rediscover their pace and challenge Mercedes for the win? Can the tricky weather give an opportunity to the midfield to move up the order? Join in the debate in the comment section below.