Chinese GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
In a while
By Dan Knutson
Neither Ferrari nor Sebastian Vettel have won a pole in a while. Their last came in Singapore late in the 2015 season. In fact, that was Ferrari's only pole since 2012. At times during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix it looked like Ferrari would come out on top, but in the end it was Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes who took the pole for the second time this season. Vettel wound up second.
It was Hamilton's sixth pole in China and the 63rd time of his career.
The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes ‚Äì Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer ‚Äì Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari ‚Äì Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes ‚Äì Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes ‚Äì Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda ‚Äì Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault ‚Äì Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault ‚Äì Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari ‚Äì Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari ‚Äì Marcus Ericsson and Antonio Giovinazzi.
The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Centigrade).
Vettel quickly got up to speed, setting a 1:33.078 on the soft compound Pirelli slicks. Hamilton, Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo and Massa rounded out the top six with six minutes to go.
All the drivers used the super softs except for the Ferraris who got by using the softs.
Down on the bubble, Stroll was 16th, Ocon 17th and Vandoorne 15th. Verstappen's engine software was acting up and he had yet to set a lap time. Grosjean was also in trouble after a flat tire, a spin and nearly hitting the barriers.
Stroll put in a flier, jumping up to fifth. Verstappen was still having problems with his power unit.
Giovinazzi did a great job to move into 15th place only to spin and crash coming out of the final corner. Out came the red flags as the wrecked Sauber came to rest on the pit straight.
The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Vandoorne, Grosjean, Palmer, Verstappen and Grosjean.
The fastest 15 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Bottas, Stroll, Ricciardo, Massa, Kvyat, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Sainz, Perez, Ericsson, Magnussen and Giovinazzi.
The start of the 15-minute Q2 was delayed by 10 minutes so that Giovinazzi's wrecked car could be removed.
Having each used just one set of the soft Pirellis in Q1, the Ferrari drivers now switched to the super softs. Everyone would use that compound in the session.
Raikkonen clocked a 1:32.602, and Vettel beat that with a 1:32.391. Then Hamilton split the Ferraris with a 1:32.406. Bottas got between them as well after turning a 1:32.552.
Ricciardo was fifth ahead of Massa and Stroll.
At the cutoff line, with five minutes to go, Perez was 10th, Sainz ninth and Alonso 11th.
In the waning seconds of the session, Hulkenberg was 12th and jumped to sixth. Magnussen got up to 11th, just missing the top 10. He then got bumped down to 12th.
Raikkonen slammed in 1:32.181, the fastest ever lap around the Shanghai circuit. Michael Schumacher set the race lap record of 1:32.238 in his Ferrari in 2004.
The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Sainz, Magnussen, Alonso, Ericsson and Giovinazzi.
The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Raikkonen, Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Massa, Perez, Kvyat and Stroll.
Q3 lasted 12 minutes, so two runs would be possible for each driver.
Hulkenberg did the first of those runs, clocking a 1:33.580.
But it was Hamilton who was flying and set the pace with a 1:31.902. Bottas was second with a 1:32.265. Vettel's best was only second best as he turned a 1:32.086. Raikkonen said he had poor grip at the rear of the car, and he wound up fourth ahead of Ricciardo.
Hulkenberg, Massa and Kvyat rounded out the top eight. Perez and Stroll did not go out for a first runs.
So it all came down to the final minutes. Would Ferrari be able to get its first pole since 2015? The track was getting quicker. Hamilton went out first followed by Bottas and Raikkonen. Vettel was the last of the foursome to start his final flying lap.
Hamilton put in a 1:31.678. Bottas did a 1:31.865, and then Vettel beat that with a 1:31.864. Raikkonen wound up fourth with a 1:32.140.
Ricciardo, Massa, Hulkenberg, Perez, Kvyat and Stroll rounded out the top 10.