After a troublesome Friday, the question of Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel’s pace was up for debate so qualifying had a lot to answer. Was Vettel simply struggling with the circuit rhythm as he said or were the Red Bull’s pace for real? Equally, was the Mercedes pace and Lewis Hamilton really struggling as much as Friday’s pace suggested?
The qualifying was a critical issue for Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg who walked in to the session with a grid penalty for a gearbox change.
The session began answering some of those questions as the Ferrari’s marched forward with Red Bull’s behind them in the early laps. It was the usual suspects at the top of the list with McLaren struggling to see the light of Q2. Fernando Alonso leapt up to 10th with three minutes left in the session.
The Toro Rosso teammates nearly collided with Brendon Hartley running slow and Pierre Gasly nearly clouting him forcing the Frenchman to run wide spoiling his last run. A great run by Charles Leclerc for taking his Sauber into Q2.
Gasly, Vandorne, Ericsson, Hartely and Grosjean were all out in Q1.
As expected, all the cars came out on Supersoft tire compounds. Even though the Ultrasoft seemed like a tire you’d want, the time differences between the Ultras and the Supers wasn’t as dramatic as the teams expected and the durability was quite a bit less.
Kimi Raikkonen struggled and ran wide on his initial runs on the Supersoft tires. A off and flat spot meant Ferrari had some serious decisions to make with the Finn as to what tires he would try to finish the session with and also start the race.
With two minutes left, the teams sent both cars out on Ultrasoft tires. Carlo Sainz out qualified his teammate, Hulkenberg, for the first time this season and made it into Q3. Raikkonen managed to go quickest of the session on his Ultrasoft compounds which set his race strategy on a tire that was a compound too far for the circuit.
Daniel Ricciardo narrowly made it in to Q3 by dinishing in 10th in the session dodging a bullet.
Alonso, Magnussen, Leclerc, Sirtokin and Stroll were all out in Q2.
The cars came out on the Ultrasoft compounds in their bid for pole position. Initial run found Sebastian Vettel on top followed by both Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas respectively. Both Red Bull’s were 4th and 5th and that betrayed the narrative about their pace on Friday being quicker than Mercedes.
The session also seemed to suggest that either the track flattered the Force India or that the team had solved many of its early season woes and were now fighting for best of the rest.
With three minutes left, the Mercedes were out on track while Ferrari and Red Bull left it to the last minute. Lewis followed Bottas on their final laps and presumably the Party Mode was engaged. Lewis set fastest first sector and looked to be hunting for pole but missed out by just 0.179s to Vettel.
Lewis and Valtteri slotted in nose to tail while Kimi Raikkonen was marching hard for pole setting purple sectors but ran wide and fell to 6th behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.
Ferrari wasn’t banking on Kimi being off the front row and it will leave Vettel in the clutches of both Mercedes. Kimi looked strong all weekend long and his 6th place in qualifying was not where the team were expecting him.
Lewis said the team improved the car overnight and brought both Mercedes ahead of the Red Bulls. Sebastian secured his third pole position in a row while both Force India’s recovered to 7th and 8th followed by both Renault’s in 9th and 10th. Hulkenberg out qualifying Sainz again.
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m41.911s||0.413s|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||1m41.994s||0.496s|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||1m42.523s||1.025s|
|8||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m42.547s||1.049s|
|17||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m44.496s||–|
|19||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m57.354s||–|