Vettel takes pole for Chinese Grand Prix

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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

For the past six years, Mercedes has had their foot on the neck of the Shanghai International Circuit in China for the Chinese Grand Prix. Heading into the weekend, early signs looked good for Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas but as the free practice session unfolded, it was Ferrari setting the pace in FP3 sending a warning that it may not be as pedestrian as Mercedes has had it in the past.

Qualifying started with a furious and feverish Red Bull frantically trying to replace a blown engine in the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s car but as Renault didn’t have a pre-built engine ready, the team were scrambling to cobble together a car for Q1. Time was running out.

Q1

As the teams headed out under dark, grey and depressing clouds, All the teams set out for their banker laps and it was important for Lewis Hamilton who was struggling with the balance of his chassis during FP3. The weather was cold, track was cold and getting heat in the tires was not easy but Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen managed to set the early pace with a 1:32.474s.

Sebastian Vettel’s first attempt in his Ferrari took the top spot with a 1:32.171s and it must be said that the car looked completely planted and well balanced. Fernando Alonso split the Haas F1 duo but it was Force India taking 5th and 6th on their initial runs and that was welcome news for a team who has struggled in the first two races of the season.

Charles Leclerc had a tank-slapper on the front straight but continued setting the slowest time in Q1. In an amazing effort, Red Bull managed to get Ricciardo out with a couple minutes left in Q1 giving him a chance to have one lap to make it to Q2. Daniel made a last ditch effort and managed to get into 14th fastest and in to Q2. Pierre Gasly couldn’t reproduce his Bahrain qualifying magic and was out in Q1.

Eliminated in Q1: Leclerc, Stroll, Ericsson, Gasly, Sirotkin.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

Q2

The session started and the teams weren’t loitering, Mercedes and Ferrari were out early with the red cars on soft tires and Mercedes on them as well. Red Bull and the rest of the grid choosing the Ultrasoft tires.

Lewis’s first run was a case of managing understeer and he set the initial time at 1:33.334s. His teammate, Bottas, was ahead of him while Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel took 1st and 2nd respectively. Ricciardo leapt to third fastest and ahead of Verstappen but on softer rubber.

Nico Hulkenberg jumped up to 7th which seems to be his mark having qualified in seventh in the last several races. Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen dislodged Nico for 6th keeping the notion alive that the team are here to race for best of the rest.

With three minutes left the teams came out to set their final times in Q2 led by Lewis Hamilton on soft compounds but Ferrari both came out on Ultrasoft tires which would be the tires they elect to start the race. The dupe move was exposed as Ferrari did not set a final lap time meaning they will start on Soft tires as well.

Lewis set a purple sector in S2 and a personal best in S1. His S3 pace was enough to get him in to provisional 1st place with a 1:31.914s. Bottas followed in 2nd with Hulkenberg throwing down a great lap for 5th. Renault’s Carlos Sainz managed to just survice in 10th while Haas F1’s Magnussen missed out by 1 1/100 of a second.

Eliminated in Q2: Alonso, Magnussen, Vandoorne, Hartley, Ocon

Q3

The final session times were cleared and the cars were all shod with purple-banded Ultrasoft tires. Lewis recovered in Q2 and one assumes they used the “Party Mode” in order to get the times they did. Heading in to Q3, it was all to play for and would Ferrari have an answer to the party mode?

Raikkonen set the fastest lap ever in China with a 1:31.200s with Vettel behind him by a tenth. Bottas in 3rd and Hamilton 4th. The Red Bulls, led by Verstappen, slotted in 5th and 6th. Renault’s Hulkenberg in his familiar 7th with Grosjean 8th followed by Sainz and Perez.

Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

With 3:49 left, the cars began to appear for their final runs. The mark was made when Kimi took provisional pole and it was down to Vettel to pip his teammate. Kimi was nursing his tires around his out lap in order to not torture them for the hot lap.

Hamilton and Bottas threw the Mercedes cars and the kitchen sink at Ferrari and managed to get Valtteri to third while Lewis Hamilton aborted his lap after running wide at the hairpin. This would give the Red Bull’s a chance to mug Lewis.

Vettel matched the first two sectors of Raikkonen and beat Kimi in sector three for pole position while the Red Bulls failed to improve from 5th and 6th. Vettel’s lap was the fastest ever for the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Ferrari’s were half a second quicker than the Mercedes and in F1, that’s a healthy advantage.

Results:

Photo by: F1.com

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sunny stivala
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sunny stivala

after FP2 I said on the other page that it is increasingly looking like China is no longer Mercedes territory. FP3 reinforced all that, qualifying confirmed it, will the end of the race flag stamp it?.

Matt
Guest
Matt

The hope for Merc is the pace on the soft tyres. Although I think it is about seeing how far red bull can get on the ultras over the first lap or two, if they can get ahead I could see a 2 stopper working for them. Interesting array of tactics for tomorrow.

Awesome lap from Seb as well, good to see Kimi being there or there abouts.

Member

It is looking like Pirelli’s moves to alter the tyre compounds to allow teams to have competing one or two stop strategies is paying off.
This is one ‘artificial construct’ in F1 that is providing better racing.
Having the RBR’s on a faster tyre off the grid could unleash all sorts of mayhem in the first few laps.
And I think Raikonnen is better than ‘there or thereabouts’. In FP and qualifying so far this season he’s been on pace with Vettel. Unfortunately he hasn’t been able to show that parity in the races (yet).

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

Jako, I like the strategies also, I just wish they didn’t require two different compounds to be used. Then the teams could setup their car for their tire of choice, which may not always be the softest.

Member

Hi SubC, One the one hand, the two compound requirement is a constuct and the cars could be quicker, if optimised for a single compound. On the other hand, two compounds does mean the cars need to have a bigger operating window – which I think is a great extra technical challenge for the designers and creates a bit of stretegic tension for the teams. So I’m in favour of the two compound rule. BUT! Just to contradict myself…….Following on your theme, why do the cars have to run the same compound all around? Why not let them run different… Read more »

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

I wouldn’t be against most of those ideas, actually! I do seem to remember somebody in NASCAR doing just that (swapping tire sides). Here’s the link; http://www.popularspeed.com/the-decade-nascars-king-sized-cheating-scandal/

Member

Now you’re going to have to ‘school me up’ on Nascar. What’s the difference between left and right tyres in Nascar, and how did running lefts on the right help Petty?

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

I had to look it up myself because I had only heard of it in passing over the years. I did find this from wikipedia on the race though; “Petty co-crew chiefs Robin Pemberton and Larry Pollard stated that during the last pit stop of the race they put softer compound bias-ply tires designed for the left side of the cars on the right side of Petty’s race car. The softer left side tires provided more traction when attached to the right side of a stock car and worked best when used during cool cloudy weather days which prevents the… Read more »

sunny stivala
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sunny stivala

In 2013 when Pirelli were producing very low “specific” lap count tyre as per the remit given them F1 teams were abusing tyres left right and center to gain an advantage. They were using left side tyres on the right side, mounting tyres inside-out, as well as abusing recommended camber and pressures. A formula 1 tyre is asymmetric and so specifically meant to be used on a side of the car, left or right. This is because it is constructed for a certain direction of rotation and with different inner and outward intended side walls. In the 2013 period it… Read more »

Member

It’s almost as if Ferrari is on a different compound tire to Mercedes. I would love to see the details on their setups. Getting tires into their operationating window isn’t as difficult as you would think especially when you have the instruments to measure their temps in real time like F1 teams. Heck, an autocrosser with just a pyromotorer can get his or her tires in the window most of the time. The only thing I can think of that will save Mercedes is if they stood they’re front tires up and ran a conservative camber and toe settings to… Read more »

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala

“perhaps they’re running bespoke tyres again” if such a comment is meant and directed at just one team, it must be a very warped mind indeed.

Member

Can we have a little decorum and not result to insults?

Member

The drivers and teams have been making such a big deal about the difficulties of getting these tyres into their operating window for such a long time, that I’m prepared to believe that it is ‘as difficult as you’d think’. I assume that the more extreme loads that the F1 cars generate, aero, braking and acceleration, plus the construction of the tyres makes it really difficult to get in the correct temperature range on all four tyres in a warm up lap, without over shooting on one corner or one end of the car. Certainly in yesterday’s qualifying, the silver… Read more »

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala

Mercedes suggested directly to Pirelli that they should reduce the rubber layer, a thinner tread means less movement on the rubber and thus less risk of overheating. Pirelli agreed to aid Mercedes. and one team promptly pointed out “why should we change the tyres if Mercedes has a problem?. this came from the same team that a few years back they pressed for the same tyre change because of having the same difficulties and whose request was acted and granted upon after which they started winning again. Technical implications of reducing the rubber layer is:- reducing the rubber layer by… Read more »

Member

Have Pirelli implemented a change to the tread thickness as a result of the suggestion by Mercedes? Or did the intervention of the other team (your favourite bullies?) stop that from happening?

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala

They agreed and promised Mercedes their request will be seen too.

Member

Would that change only come in next season?

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala

As I understand it will be as soon as possible. but cannot assure you.

sunny stivala
Guest
sunny stivala

The construction of the tyre is the same for everybody, there are cars that can get them up to optimal operating temperatures faster then others, as well as there are cars being able to maintain temperature operating range better then others.

Member

The changes in relative pace in qualifying from last year are interesting, Compared to Mercedes; Ferrari from 0.2 behind to 0.6 ahead – and BOTH cars 0.6 ahead. RBR from 1.4 behind to 0.2 behind – with both cars qualified. Williams from 1.9 behind to both cars out in Q1 – but only 1.1 off Merc in Q1. Renault from 1.9 behind to 0.9 behind – with Both cars making Q3. F.I from 2.0 behind to 1.1 behind. Haas from out in Q2 to 1.2 behind. The pace of the field looks to be closing up, with even the likes… Read more »