Ferrari managed to lock out the front-row for the first time in just over nine years. Both cars were able to out qualify Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton starts in a lowly 4th, behind the top three covered by a tenth: Vettel, Raikkonen and Bottas.
When asked if “Ferrari were back?”, Vettel replied,
“Back from where? We’ve had a strong start to the season. In terms of getting the front-row, yes, we’re back, but it is important to try and carry this momentum into the race tomorrow.”
– Sebastian Vettel
Story of Quali
In Q1, the Ferraris were successful in getting through the session on the Supersoft compounds, giving them an extra set of Ultrasofts for the rest of the weekend. Mercedes topped the time sheets, but both drivers were visibly finding it more difficult than usual to keep the car within the track parameters.
After the first round of hot laps, the McLarens, Wehrlein, Grosjean and Ericsson were in the drop zone, looking to improve and get into Q2. Carlos Sainz jumped from 15th to 8th with two-minutes to go, putting Lance Stroll into danger in 15th, but the Canadian was able to put in a lap that put him 11th with others improving behind.
Fernando Alonso was using every inch of the track, but on his final flyer, he was already a second down on Bottas’ time but the Spanish driver was able to drag the McLaren through to Q2, crucially before the yellow flags prevented others from improving.
Jolyon Palmer made a mistake at turn four, getting too greedy on the kerb and unbalancing the car. In trying to correct the front-end, momentum threw him into the wall and out of qualifying. After an FP3 in which an exhaust leak burnt a hole in his Renault’s tub, the bad luck and race weekend difficulties continue for the Brit, who will start the Russian Grand Prix in 16th, whilst his teammate was able to get into Q2 with ease.
On the same lap, Pascal Wehrlein took too much speed into turn 13 and lost his Sauber. His car wasn’t damaged, but it stopped him from potentially sneaking into the next stage of qualifying. Stoffel Vandoorne will start at the back of the grid due to his Power unit penalty, his time on the day was good enough to beat the Saubers and a stricken Romain Grosjean, who will line-up on the back row with the Belgian after some concerning inconsistency from Haas, their brakes causing a major issue for Grosjean.
In Q2, Valtteri Bottas looked to be the driver building momentum. His first Q2 time was haf-a-second quicker than his teammate. Surprisingly, both Ferraris were seven-tenths down on Bottas’ time of 1.33.264.
After the first runs, the Toro Rosso drivers needed to find a few tenths for the top ten. Lance Stroll was the driver in 10th, but a late improvement from Sergio Perez pushed him out. Carlos Sainz was able to line up 11th, but a three place penalty following a collision with Stroll in Bahrain puts a few cars between the Toro Rosso and Williams (probably a good thing).
Daniil Kvyat will line up 12th after setting the 13th quickest time, with Magnussen a disappointing 14th in the Haas, but promoted to 13th after Sainz’ penalty. It’s starting to look like Haas are losing touch with the sharp end of the midfield. If their race pace isn’t any better than their performance over a lap, it will be a difficult hunt for points tomorrow.
Fernando Alonso was nowhere near even Magnussen, six-tenths down and 15th. His comments as he crossed the line and checked his delta was simply, “Unbelievable… Unbelievable…”. There’s PR professionalism and outward patience, but Alonso is nowhere near being happy in that car. Honda have truly drained the joy out of one of the grids most exciting drivers to watch, and we’re being starved of a key player.
Q3 started with a bit of drama, a qualifying scrap between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg causing some perspiration in the respective garages.The first runs from the top four drivers highlighted Hamilton’s slightly off weekend so far.
Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas were both ahead of the perceived number one drivers. Vettel was just over a tenth shy of both Finns, and Hamilton was over a second down having suffered oversteer during the lap. The Red Bulls were 5th and 6th but were both under pressure from Massa, the Force Indias and Nico Hulkenberg.
For the final flyer shootout, it looked like four cars could potentially be on pole. Kimi Raikkonen was up on his time, but made an error on the final corner, undoing his own work. Sebastian Vettel was able to get ahead by a fractional 0.059s. Bottas was within a tenth of both Ferrari drivers, Hamilton remained half-a-second off.
Ferrari locked out the front-row for the first time since the 2008 French Grand Prix, confirming the Ferrari renaissance more convincingly than anything so far this season. Mercedes will be disappointed, but Bottas’ lap can’t be understated, and throws a spanner in the works of trying to define a preferential driver within the team.
🏁 END OF QUALIFYING 🏁
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 29, 2017
Daniel Ricciardo was able to qualify 5th, but Red Bull are nowhere near the top two teams. Felipe Massa crept into 6th and outperformed Max Verstappen, who is is a disappointing 7th.Hulkenberg is 8th and once again looks like Renault’s only chance for points. The Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon completes the top ten.