2015: Chinese Grand Prix – Qualifying Report

Lewis Hamilton went into qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix as the form man, topping all three practice sessions before hand. Last time out’s race winners Ferrari have once again been the Silver Arrows closest rivals. Hamilton lead team-mate Nico Rosberg in Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 3 while Kimi Raikkonen finished second in Free Practice 2.

Q1

Roberto Merhi was first out on track for the start of the session – closely followed by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard broke down on his out-lap in the third and final Free Practice session so was no doubt keen to make up for lost time by getting out early and checking everything was in working order. They were soon joined on track by the Toro Rosso duo and both Ferraris. Merhi set the first flying lap – a 1:44.911 – which was quickly beaten by Raikkonen by four seconds. Hamilton soon went fastest of all, two tenths faster than Rosberg. Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Nasr, Sergio Perez, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Raikkonen, Alonso, and Max Verstappen were the top ten after the first runs. The Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa went out with seven minutes left in the session for their first flying laps. Bottas was fastest of anyone with a 1:38.014, two tenths faster than Hamilton although on different tyre compounds. Mercedes were comfortable on the medium tyres while others went out on the soft. Massa slotted into third. Raikkonen then went fastest before being beaten by Vettel. There were a flurry of times at the end of the session which saw a number of drivers move up the order.

  1. Sebastian Vettel – 1:37.502
  2. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:37.790
  3. Valtteri Bottas – 1:38.014
  4. Romain Grosjean – 1:38.209
  5. Lewis Hamilton – 1:38.285
  6. Max Verstappen – 1:38.387
  7. Felipe Massa – 1:38.433
  8. Nico Rosberg – 1:38.496
  9. Felipe Nasr – 1:38.521
  10. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:38.534
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:38.563
  12. Carlos Sainz – 1:38.622
  13. Sergio Perez – 1:38.903
  14. Marcus Ericsson – 1:38.941
  15. Daniil Kvyat – 1:39.051
  16. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:39.216
  17. Jenson Button – 1:39.276
  18. Fernando Alonso – 1:39.280
  19. Will Stevens – 1:42.091
  20. Roberto Merhi – 1:42.842 

Q2

The Sauber drivers were first out on track for the start of Q2. Valtteri Bottas’ first effort saw him go fastest of three drivers before being beaten by Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes driver once again complained about his seat getting too hot. Another driver suffering a reoccurring issue from practice was Daniil Kvyat who complained about having no power on the straights. In the drop zone with two minutes remaining were Felipe Massa, Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr, Kvyat, and Sergio Perez. Ericsson, Nasr, and Massa improved into the top ten pushing Pastor Maldonado, Max Verstappen, and Carlos Sainz out. That meant both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both Williams’, both Saubers, a Red Bull and a Lotus were going through to the all important pole position shoot-out.

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:36.423
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:36.747
  3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:36.957
  4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:37.109
  5. Felipe Massa – 1:37.357
  6. Valtteri Bottas – 1:37.763
  7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:37.939
  8. Felipe Nasr – 1:38.017
  9. Romain Grosjean – 1:38.063
  10. Marcus Ericsson – 1:38.127
  11. Pastor Maldonado – 1:38.134
  12. Daniil Kvyat – 1:38.209
  13. Max Verstappen – 1:38.393
  14. Carlos Sainz – 1:38.538
  15. Sergio Perez – 1:39.290

Q3

The first flying lap of Q3 came from Valtteri Bottas and it was a 1:37.903 but it was quickly smashed by Lewis Hamilton who went over two seconds faster. Nico Rosberg’s time was two tenths slower than his team-mate while Felipe Massa was three tenths further back. Both Ferrari drivers were out on a set of used softs for their first runs – Kimi Raikkonen went fifth with a 1:37.906 while Sebastian Vettel was fourth with a 1:37.776. The Sauber duo of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson waited in the pits before going out for one run. All ten drivers took to the track for the last two minutes with new sets of tyres on their cars. Rosberg was last out of the garage, just behind Vettel, meaning he would be the last driver over the line to set a lap-time. Raikkonen’s lap was a scrappy one with the Finn having to wrestle the car round the corners. He improved to third but had to wait for everyone else to complete their laps. Bottas improved to third on his final flying lap while Hamilton did not improve on his provisional pole time. Massa went ahead of his team-mate while Vettel slotted into third. Rosberg was not able to improve enough ending up just four hundredths of a second behind Hamilton.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:35.782
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:35.824
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:36.687
  4. Felipe Massa 1:36.954
  5. Valtteri Bottas 1:37.143
  6. Kimi Raikkonen 1:37.232
  7. Daniel Ricciardo 1:37.540
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:37.905
  9. Felipe Nasr 1:38.067
  10. Marcus Ericsson 1:38.158

2015: Malaysia Grand Prix – Qualifying Report

Mercedes continued at the top of the times in all three practice sessions once again. Nico Rosberg went fastest in Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 3 while Lewis Hamilton was on top in Free Practice 2. Ferrari have been their nearest rivals so far this weekend with Kimi Raikkonen getting within four tenths of their fastest laps. Going into qualifying it looks like there could be a lot of close battles up and down the order.

Q1

Clouds closed in on the circuit just before the start of qualifying with a 60% chance of rain. Plenty of cars including both Mercedes, both Toro Rossos, and both McLarens took to the track early in the session to get some running in. The first lap-time of the session was a 1:47.214 from Roberto Merhi, taking part in his first F1 qualifying session. Max Verstappen quickly bettered this by over five seconds. Hamilton then topped the times going just a tenth clear of team-mate Rosberg. Will Stevens was forced to stay in the garage due to a fuel system problem and therefore did not set a lap-time. It will be at the stewards’ discretion whether or not he can race along with team-mate Merhi who was outside the 107%.  There was a late flurry of times but neither McLaren could improve out of the drop-zone.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:39.269
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:39.374
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:39.814
  4. Carlos Sainz 1:39.814
  5. Valtteri Bottas 1:40.249
  6. Romain Grosjean 1:40.303
  7. Marcus Ericsson 1:40.340
  8. Pastor Maldonado 1:40.361
  9. Kimi Raikkonen 1:40.415
  10. Daniel Ricciardo 1:40.504
  11. Felipe Massa 1:40.543
  12. Daniil Kvyat 1:40.546
  13. Max Verstappen 1:40.793
  14. Nico Hulkenberg 1:40.830
  15. Sergio Perez 1:41.036
  16. Felipe Nasr 1:41.308
  17. Jenson Button 1:41.636
  18. Fernando Alonso 1:41.746
  19. Roberto Merhi 1:46.677
  20. Will Stevens No Time Set

Q2

Drivers queued at the end of the pit-lane for the start of Q2 with the threat of rain in the air. Vettel was at the head of the queue and was instantly joined by all 14 other drivers through to the next round of qualifying. It wasn’t long until the rain arrived with drivers trying to find clear air to set a lap time before it got too heavy. With nine minutes remaining the rain came down heavily meaning there would be no improvements. Raikkonen, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Perez and Sainz therefore dropped out having failed to set a fast enough lap time on their first run. Hamilton was heard complaining to his team that they hadn’t got him out on track in time. The team then revealed that they had problems getting the engine fired up. Hamilton had a power unit problem which compromised his running in FP1.

  1. Nico Rosberg 1:39.377
  2. Sebastian Vettel 1:39.632
  3. Valtteri Bottas 1:40.650
  4. Daniel Ricciardo 1:41.085
  5. Romain Grosjean 1:41.209
  6. Felipe Massa 1:41.230
  7. Max Verstappen 1:41.430
  8. Lewis Hamilton 1:41.517
  9. Daniil Kvyat 1:41.665
  10. Marcus Ericsson 1:41.748
  11. Kimi Raikkonen 1:42.173
  12. Pastor Maldonado 1:42.198
  13. Nico Hulkenberg 1:43.023
  14. Sergio Perez 1:43.469
  15. Carlos Sainz 1:43.701

Q3

After a washout in Q2, the pole position shoot out was delayed by at least 15 minutes initially. It was then delayed by a further 15 minutes. Another queue formed at the end of the pit-lane for the start of the third and final qualifying session. Some drivers went out on full wets while others opted for intermediates. Vettel recorded the first flying lap which was a 1:51.178, quickly beaten by Rosberg and then Hamilton. Verstappen slotted himself into third place. Hamilton’s provisional pole time was enough to keep pole position although he was just 0.0074s ahead of Ferrari driver Vettel who will start between the two Mercedes. Ricciardo will line up fourth for Red Bull, ahead of team-mate Kvyat with Verstappen, Massa, Grosjean, Bottas and Ericsson rounding out the top ten.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:49.834
  2. Sebastian Vettel 1:49.908
  3. Nico Rosberg 1:50.299
  4. Daniel Ricciardo 1:51.541
  5. Daniil Kvyat 1:51.951
  6. Max Verstappen 1:51.981
  7. Felipe Massa 1:52.473
  8. Romain Grosjean 1:52.981
  9. Valtteri Bottas 1:53.179
  10. Marcus Ericsson 1:53.261

2015: Australian Grand Prix – Qualifying Report

Mercedes picked up where they left of last year by topping all three practice sessions ahead of qualifying. Nico Rosberg lead the way on Friday, finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton in both Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2. The tables turned in Free Practice 3 when Hamilton finished a second clear of his team-mate. Going into qualifying it certainly looks like Mercedes are the team to beat although Ferrari and Red Bull are battling close behind.

Q1

Windy conditions greeted drivers as they took to the track for Q1. An engine exhaust fire damaged the wiring loom in Daniil Kvyat’s car leading to last minute repairs before he could get going. Pastor Maldonado was first out as qualifying got going with Carlos Sainz, Romain Grosjean, and Max Verstappen instantly joining him. The Ferrari duo opted to go out on the soft tyre while everyone else used the medium compound. Sainz was the first driver to set a lap-time and it was a 1:33.094. Morning pacesetter Hamilton complained of big vibrations on his first run. Sainz had a spin out on track while a number of drivers – including Nico Hulkenberg, Jenson Button and Hamilton – ran wide on their laps. The top spot was shared between Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, and Hamilton throughout the session. Kvyat got out on track with three minutes to go and his one and only lap was good enough for 12th.

  1. Lewis Hamilton – 1:28.586
  2. Nico Rosberg – 1:28.906
  3. Felipe Massa – 1:29.246
  4. Max Verstappen – 1:29.248
  5. Sebastian Vettel – 1:29.307
  6. Romain Grosjean – 1:29.537
  7. Carlos Sainz – 1:29.597
  8. Valtteri Botttas – 1:29.641
  9. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:29.651
  10. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:29.754
  11. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:29.788
  12. Pastor Maldonado – 1:29.847
  13. Sergio Perez – 1:29.990
  14. Daniil Kvyat – 1:30.402
  15. Felipe Nasr – 1:30.430
  16. Marcus Ericsson – 1:31.376
  17. Jenson Button – 1:31.422
  18. Kevin Magnussen – 1:32.037
  19. Will Stevens – No Time Set
  20. Roberto Merhi – No Time Set

Q2

Missing from the second part of qualifying were Marcus Ericsson and both McLaren drivers. Felipe Nasr got out early for Q2 running as did Nico Hulkenberg. The first time of Q2 was a 1:29.614 set by Nasr in the remaining Sauber. The Mercedes duo set fast laps on their first run and returned to the garage with five minutes remaining. Pastor Maldonado failed to set a lap-time in the early phases of Q2 and it wasn’t until the chequered flag that he completed one – jumping into the top ten. He was joined by team-mate Romain Grosjean in a positive showing for Lotus. Nasr briefly made it into the pole position shoot out but eventually ended up 11th, not even a tenth off Q3.  Sainz was the only rookie to make it through.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:26.894
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:27.097
  3. Sebastian Vettel 1:27.742
  4. Valtteri Bottas 1:27.796
  5. Kimi Raikkonen 1:27.807
  6. Felipe Massa 1:27.895
  7. Romain Grosjean 1:28.589
  8. Carlos Sainz 1:28.601
  9. Daniel Ricciardo 1:28.679
  10. Pastor Maldonado 1:28.726
  11. Felipe Nasr 1:28.800
  12. Max Verstappen 1:28.868
  13. Daniil Kvyat 1:29.070
  14. Nico Hulkenberg 1:29.208
  15. Sergio Perez 1:29.209

Q3

Going into the pole position shoot out were both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both Williams, both Lotus’, a Toro Rosso and a Red Bull. Valtteri Bottas locked up on his first run and lost time. He complained over team radio about a problem with the “bite of brakes”. Lewis Hamilton – who set the pace in FP3, Q1, and Q2 – opened his account for pole position with a 1:26.419, beating Kimi Raikkonen’s time by over two seconds. Nico Rosberg ran wide on the penultimate corner, ruining his first run. There was a flurry of activity with three minutes of the session remaining as half of the top ten took to the track. Sebastian Vettel used a set of used soft tyres for his final run while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen used a new set. In the end Hamilton’s impressive time was enough to clinch pole position after Rosberg could not improve and finished over half a second down on his team-mate.

  1. Lewis Hamilton 1:26.327
  2. Nico Rosberg 1:26.921
  3. Felipe Massa 1:27.718
  4. Sebastian Vettel 1:27.757
  5. Kimi Raikkonen 1:27.790
  6. Valtteri Bottas 1:28.087
  7. Daniel Ricciardo 1:28.329
  8. Carlos Sainz 1:30.289
  9. Romain Grosjean 1:28.560
  10. Pastor Maldonado 1:29.480

The winner takes it all – Abu Dhabi quali

No points to be won on Saturday, of course, but lots of head to heads to be decided as far as qualifying performance over the season. None more so than at Mclaren, who enter the final weekend of a distinctly lacklustre season with no drivers confirmed for 2015. This could be the final chance to shine for those who haven’t secured a drive for next season.

It’s fitting that the season comes to an end in the desert twilight and there’s a definite end-of-term feel with the Constructors’ Championship already done and dusted. With all eyes on the Drivers’ Championship (and heads spinning from the variety of mathematical permutations), Abu Dhabi’s wide, trouble-free Yas Marina circuit is the perfect arena for some racing action.

There was the small matter of qualifying to sort out first. With Caterham present and correct, albeit with newbie Will Stevens partnering Kobyashi, there was a 20-car line-up at the start of Q1. Grosjean for Lotus was carrying a penalty so huge, he would probably be starting from the Bahrain grid for his complete powertrain change. No major incidents in Q1, the casualties were the Caterhams, the Lotuses and the Sauber of Gutierrez, underlining another season to forget for the Swiss team.

Almost inevitably it was the Mercedes pair topping the Q2 times for most of the session, with Williams in close attendance. In fact, Massa and Bottas managed to split the Mercedes pair. McLaren had a mixed session, with Button 6th but Magnussen dumped out at the death by a charging Kvyat’s Toro Rosso. Out in Q2: Sutil (Sauber), the Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez, Toro Rosso’s Vergne and Magnussen.

It was Hamilton who blinked first, locking up at the end of his first Q3 flying lap and handing the advantage to his team mate but still recording the second-fastest lap in the process. With everybody out on track for their final runs, it would be Hamilton who was at the back of the queue and therefore the last to record a qualifying time. As the times tumbled, Rosberg planted his Mercedes in pole from Hamilton, followed by Williams’ Bottas and Massa, the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Vettel, Toro Rosso’s Kyvat, and the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Alonso.

The penultimate countdown – Brazilian GP quali

Toto Wolff’s comments last year about one team dominating a season being boring have come back to bite him with a vengeance, with Mercedes already polishing the 2014 Constructor’s Championship trophy and Hamilton or Rosberg at the top of pretty much every timesheet all season. It’s not likely he cares much though, as the season looks likely to be remembered as the one in which Mercedes won everything.

Coming into the Brazil weekend, the news that Marussia had finally succumbed to the ruinous financial pressures and ceased trading reignited the sustainability question, the whole debate underscored by Caterham’s frankly desperate crowdfunding attempts to drag themselves to the grid for the final race of the season.

On track, it was an overcast but dry Interlagos onto which Sauber led the way for this penultimate Q1 of the 2014 season. With the habitual backmarkers absent, it was Lotus who failed to progress joined by the Toro Rosso of Vergne and the Force India of Perez (carrying a seven place penalty over from the US GP). A very unhappy Alonso expressed his anger at his track position, feeling thwarted by Grosjean’s Lotus. Almost inevitably it was the Mercedes pair topping the session with local favourite Massa the best of the rest in his Williams.

It was McLaren who gambled first in Q2, deciding to leave Button and Magnussen in the garage having banked times provisionally putting them in p5 and 6 and hoping the Saubers of Sutil and Gutierrez didn’t spring an unwelcome surprise. It was Alonso who had to suffer the pain of watching the session unfold behind him, but he clung onto P10 to progress to Q3. With both Williams splitting the Mercedes, it was Massa in P2 who took the cheers of a partisan grandstand. Saubers out this ession, joined by Toro Rosso’s Kvyat (didn’t set a time and carrying a penalty) and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg,

Hamilton was first out his provisional pole lasting only until his team mate shaved three hundredths of a second off his time to top the time sheet. It was Rosberg who took the honours from Hamilton, Williams locking out row 2 and McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing sharing the remaining six slots.

2014: United States GP Grid

Here is the grid for the 2014 US Grand Prix, following grid penalties:

1. Nico Rosberg 1:36.067
2. Lewis Hamilton 1:36.443
3. Valtteri Bottas 1:36.906
4. Felipe Massa 1:37.205
5. Daniel Ricciardo 1:37.244
6. Fernando Alonso 1:37.610
7. Kevin Magnussen 1:37.706
8. Kimi Raikkonen 1:37.804
9. Adrian Sutil 1:38.810
10. Pastor Maldonado 1:38.467 (Q2 time)
11. Sergio Perez 1:38.554
12. Jenson Button* 1:37.655 (Q3 time)
13. Nico Hulkenberg 1:38.598
14. Jean-Eric Vergne 1:39.250 (Q1 time)
15. Esteban Gutierrez 1:39.555
16. Romain Grosjean 1:39.679
17. Daniil Kvyat** 1:38.699 (Q2 time)
Pit-lane: Sebastian Vettel 1:39.621

* 5 place grid drop for gearbox change
** grid drop for engine change

Go west – USA GP quali

There’s an irony in the F1 arriving in the home of unfettered commercialism and enterprise amidst an escalating row about the cost of the sport and financing. With two teams already ‘excused’ from the weekend’s activities due to financial issues, there was already a reduced grid but while the remaining nine teams were present and correct for qualifying, there was a significant cadre of teams still muttering about boycotting the race itself to protest about the escalating cost of running an F1 team.

Off-circuit problems aside, conditions could not be better for  a qualifying session reconfigured to compensate for the reduced field. With Sebastian Vettel running a complete new – sixth – powertrain and therefore carrying a penalty meaning he would start from the pitlane, it was effectively an installation session for him. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, Vettel’s replacement at Red Bull for 2015, was also carrying a ten place grid penalty for an engine change, underlining the wear and limitations on engine units as we reach the closing stages of the season. McLaren’s Jenson Button was also carrying a five-place penalty for his out-of-sequence gearbox change.

It was Mercedes and Williams topping the timesheet for Q1, with Ferrari’s Alonso the best of the rest. Vettel’s non-competitive lap bagged him the first elimination spot, joined by Vergne (Toro Rosso), Gutierrez (Sauber) and Grosjean (Lotus), who ran wide on his final flying lap.

With four more to be eliminated in Q2 it was Rosberg setting the early pace with his teammate Hamilton complaining of tyre problems. Having topped every session of the weekend so far, Hamilton found himself outpaced by Rosberg in Q2. Out this session, Kvyat, Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado and the Force Indias of Perez and Hulkenberg.

It was almost two by two for Q3, with the Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari and McLaren sending both cars out for the final session, joined by Sauber’s Adrian Sutil and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. It was the improving Rosberg who took pole from his team mate, with Williams occupying the second row. A solid performance by the Ferrari pair but still not up to the exacting standards they expect.