Brazilian GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report

Crashing bookends

Valtteri Bottas, Brazilian GP 2017

Valtteri Bottas, Brazilian GP 2017 

 © RV Press

 

By Dan Knutson in Interlagos

Lewis Hamilton has qualified on pole 72 times in his Formula 1 career. His chances of pole number 73 ended in the barriers early in the first qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas went through to the end of qualifying to win the pole. So it was a case of opposing bookends for Mercedes with Hamilton crashing out at the start and Bottas on top with the pole at the end.

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Hamilton and Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz; Toro Rosso Renault - Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly and; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Gasly, Hartley, Ricciardo and Stroll would all be getting grid penalties due to various power unit and gearbox changes.

QUALIFYING 1

The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Centigrade). The chance of rain stood at 40 percent.

The 18-minute session was just two minutes old when Hamilton spun and slammed into the barriers at Turn 6 and the red flags came out.

“I’m ok guys,” a groggy Hamilton radioed.

Just what caused the accident was not immediately apparent, but Hamilton did have a look at the back of the car. Replays showed the car sparking and grounding at the rear.

The last time he had been eliminated in Q1 happened 27 races ago in qualifying for the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix.

After an eight-minute delay the session restarted.

The Ferrari drivers had soft compound Pirellis fitted but the rest including Bottas went with the super soft tires.

Bottas took the lead with a lap of 1:10.053, but Verstappen beat that 1:09.966, and then Vettel topped that with a 1:09.796. Bottas responded with a 1:09.452. Then Raikkonen got in the mix as he turned a 1:09.405.

When things calmed down after the initial runs, the order was Raikkonen, Bottas, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Perez.

Down at the cut line, Gasly was 15th with Wehrlein 16th and Magnussen 14th.

Most of the top 10 stayed in the pits while the rest tried to improve their laps.

The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q1 were: Wehrlein, Gasly, Stroll, Ericsson and Hamilton.

The fastest 15 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Raikkonen, Bottas, Vettel, Massa, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Perez, Grosjean, Ocon, Alonso, Sainz, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Hartley.

QUALIFYING 2

Bottas went out immediately and turned a 1:08.901.

The drivers were on the super soft tires. But Ricciardo used the soft compound - a strategy move given his 10-place grid penalty as he would use those tires to start the race.

Vettel was a tad slower at 1:09.013, followed by Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Massa and Alonso.

At the halfway point, Ocon was tenth and on the bubble, ahead of Grosjean but behind Sainz.

Rather than go for a time, a moot point with his engine penalty, Hartley was doing practice starts.

In the final minutes the order got redone as most drivers tried another set of laps. Vettel leapt to the fore with a time of 1:08.494. That was the fastest lap ever at Interlagos in a weekend of fastest laps ever.

The five drivers who were eliminated at the end of Q2 were: Ocon, Grosjean, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Hartley.

The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Massa, Hulkenberg, Perez and Sainz.

QUALIFYING 3

Bottas again headed out immediately in Q3 that lasted 12 minutes. He clocked a 1:08.442.

Vettel went even faster, crossing the line in 1:08.360. Raikkonen’s 1:08.767 put him third ahead of Verstappen, Ricciardo, Perez, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Sainz and Massa. All used the super soft Pirellis.

Less than two minutes remained when the drivers started their last fast laps.

Vettel did not improve, but Bottas did with a qualifying record lap of 1:08.322 to win the third pole of his career.

Vettel ended up second ahead of Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Perez, Alonso, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Massa.


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