Mercedes are really fast… Again
The Silver Arrows have established their dominance thus far this weekend, as per usual. Rosberg or Hamilton have led every single practice session and led every qualifying session with Rosberg taking pole with a 1:14.363 around the Hockenheimring. Rosberg, who took pole and eventually the victory the last time F1 visited the historic track, is looking to be the first German to repeat a German Grand Prix win ever. Rosberg’s pole lap this afternoon was a full 2.2 seconds faster than back in 2014. The 1:16.540 that won him pole would have landed him 15th position on the grid, which just shows the sheer pace that these cars have gained since the last visit.
The two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo showed good pace and gave themselves some good confidence heading into Sunday, with Ricciardo ending just four tenths down on Rosberg. While the Red Bulls have made great strides, Max Verstappen had this to say to reporters after the session about their chances of catching Mercedes this weekend: “I don’t think so; I think that’s still a bit too strong for us but we are not too far off so we can be pleased with that.”
That quote from Verstappen just shows how fast the Mercedes men have been all weekend.
Everybody else is chasing Red Bull
While the Mercedes and Red Bull have the first two rows locked up, Ferrari are still scrambling to try and keep pace with not just Mercedes, but also Red Bulls who have been charging up the board for the constructor’s championship. Vettel and Raikkonen were both a little under a half a second behind the Red Bulls, which will certainly upset the team as they continue to search for pace. The Force India team put down solid laps in Q3 as did the Williams team, especially Valtteri Bottas who had a rough couple of practice sessions, he landed himself eighth on the grid.
One of the disappointments was the McLaren Honda team as they were both eliminated in Q2, after both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were looking forward to this weekend after a rough time in Hungary. Neither guy could seem to find any pace and Alonso shredded the underside of his MP4-31 going over the top of some kerbing heading towards the stadium section, so the crew will have to work hard to get that fixed up for tomorrow. Button and Alonso are 12th and 14th respectively.
There weren’t very many other surprises along the grid, Pascal Wehrlein had a good Q1 time that got him 18th in his Manor. Daniil Kvyat had another dreadful qualifying session, which just makes the seat in his Toro Rosso feel that much hotter underneath him. Kvyat finished 19th and just barely beat out the other Manor of Haryanto and the two Saubers.
Stadium section is going to be key
The stadium section at Hockenheim is one of the coolest atmospheres on the calendar but it’s also going to be one of the most important for the drivers to get the most out of their lap times. We saw especially in Q3 that running up on the kerbs is going to cause some disturbance with the handling of the cars, being able to keep the car under control there is going to be incredibly important. Ricciardo showed the difficulty of the section on his final Q3 lap where he looked to lose the back end as he exited turn 13, which lost him a few tenths and cost him an opportunity at making the front row very interesting. All the drivers will need to be wary heading through that section and be sure not to overdrive the car, which could lead to a few incidents in that part of the track.