Chinese GP 2016
APRIL 16, 2016
Qualifying Report - Insanity reined in
The insanity of the knockout qualifying has thankfully been reined in after two disastrous attempts, and so the tried and true old format was reinstated for the Chinese Grand Prix.
When it was over, Nico Rosberg had won the pole in his Mercedes, and Daniel Ricciardo had qualified second in his Red Bull.
The ambient temperature at the start of qualifying was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Centigrade.)
The line-up for the session was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Stoffel Vandoorne and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto and Roberto Merhi. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.
It had stopped raining, but the track was damp enough that most drivers had Pirelli's intermediate rain tires fitted as they headed out for the 18-minute session. Yet Hamilton radioed in that the track was dry.
There were two wet patches on the track - under the two buildings that span the pit straight. The session was red flagged after just three minutes when Wehrlein, who was on slicks, hit a bump on the wet track under the first building, spun and parked the Manor on the pit straight.
Then there was a delay for track drying and cleaning. Finally, after 22 minutes, the session was restarted with 14 minutes and 38 seconds remaining in Q1. The first drivers out were all on the super soft Pirelli slicks, but other drivers waited in the garages to let others dry the track for them.
One of the track driers was Button who posted a time of 1:38.324 to top the times for the time being. With less than seven minutes remaining only nine drivers had put in a lap time. Yet moments later all 11 drivers who had been in the pits were now on the track including Rosberg who turned a 1:37.669.
Now it was just a matter of being in the top 16 slots as the session wound down. Vettel took the number one slot with a lap in 1:37.001. Hamilton, who had complained about an engine problem, meanwhile had returned to the pits without setting a time.
The fastest 16 drivers who moved on to Q2 were: Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas, Button, Sainz, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Massa, Perez, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Ericsson, Grosjean, Alonso and Nasr.
The six drivers who were eliminated at the end of FP1 were: Magnussen, Gutierrez, Palmer, Haryanto, Wehrlein and Hamilton.
The 15-minute Q2 session got underway with none of the drivers waiting to head out on track.
When things got going, Rosberg clocked a 1:36.240. The Ferrari drivers waited a bit longer to go out, and when they did, Raikkonen set a 1:36.118 with four minutes remaining. Vettel moved into second place with a 1:36.183.
With two minutes to go, everybody was on track except Raikkonen, Vettel and Rosberg.
Then Hulkenberg's left front wheel fell off and he parked at Turn 10. The session was red flagged with one minute and 18 seconds remaining. That ruined the fast laps of a number of drivers, and the session was not restarted.
The fastest 10 drivers who moved on to Q3 were: Raikkonen, Vettel, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Bottas, Kvyat, Perez, Sainz, Verstappen and Hulkenberg.
The six drivers who were eliminated at the end of FP2 were: Massa, Alonso, Button, Grosjean, Ericsson and Nasr.
Hulkenberg's car was not brought back to the garage in time, so he sat out the 12-minute session. Everybody else except Vettel was soon in action.
After the first rounds of runs, the order was: Raikkonen, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Sainz, Bottas, Verstappen and Perez. Vettel had not gone out.
With four minutes remaining all the drivers were in the pits. With less than three minutes to go the drivers started filtering back out on the track. And the shootout commenced. When it was over, the top 10 qualifiers were: Rosberg, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Kvyat, Perez, Sainz, Verstappen (and Hulkenberg).
All in all, the old qualifying format proved to be far better than the insane knockout formula.