If there’s a cloud on the F1 horizon for the rest of the season, it’s not the swings of Mercedes drivers’ friendometer, even though the media circus post-Spa has focused squarely on the spat between Rosberg and Hamilton. That cloud, as many commentators predicted, is the spectre of engine penalties. It was Toro Rosso’s Dani Kvyat who was first to have to have a sixth motor installed and take a ten place grid drop as a consequence. The team’s thinking is that Monza offers more opportunities for overtaking than Singapore – it should be easier for Kvyat to make up some of the places he has dropped.
Rosberg’s miserable fortnight continued with a gearbox electronics problem seeing his car out of FP3 and dismantled with half an hour to Q1 and no low fuel running under his belt ahead of quali. The problem was resolved without a gearbox change and Rosberg was one of the first out for Q1.
With the faster teams hoping to progress on the slower hard tyre, Caterham understandably sent both drivers out on the better-performing medium tyre to see if they could progress to Q2. Lotus’s woes increased with a fluid leak keeping Grosjean in the garage for most of Q1 and Maldonado asked to bring his car home wthout changing gear if possible at the end of the session. Both drivers failed to progress to Q2. At the sharp end it was, inevitably, Mercedes and Williams leading the session.
This theme continued into Q2, with Alonso the best of the rest for most of the session – his P5 time with two minutes left on the clock still the best part of a second adrift. Team mate Raikkonen struggled to master the chicanes on his ealy Q2 laps, gambling all on a final charge and failing to put his Ferrari into Q3. Kvyat’s 11th slot bumped him down to 21st, using all ten penalty places and carrying none over to Singapore.
It was Perez in the remaining Force India who led the way for Q3. Rosberg’s provisional pole time was quickly smashed by Hamilton’s first flying lap, slicing .4 of a second off the German’s time despite being a tenth down in the first sector. With two minutes left on the clock, all ten runners were out for a final dash, with Hamilton at the back of the pack. With Rosberg failing to beat Hamilton’s standing time, it was Hamilton on pole. A solid 5th and 6th for the McLaren pair put the team in a good position to score well tomorrow.