Lewis Hamilton took yet another Pole Position, ahead of tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver was followed by his team mate Rosberg, and it continues Mercedes’ 100% Pole record for 2014. Sebastian Vettel qualified 10th due to a gearbox problem.
Rosberg was the driver who took the honours in P3, topping the sheets from team mate Hamilton by nearly a second. Hamilton however, had not shown his true speed. He was on a purple (fastest) lap but aborted it to come into the pits, leaving his Silver Arrow counterpart to take the top spot.
Hamilton may have been a second down on Rosberg, but he was nearly half a second faster than Alonso, who in turn was just ahead of his old team mate Massa. Lotus demonstrated the fantastic progress they have made, with Grosjean an impressive 5th, and Maldonado rounding out the top 10.
Several drivers danced with the clutches of the bottom of the table, Kimi Raikkonen sitting on the cusp of elimination for what was surely longer than comfortable. Lewis Hamilton took a while to set a lap, but eventually qualified with ease, as you would expect. One man who did not set a lap was 2012 Spanish GP winner, Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan had looked fairly decent this weekend with Lotus making significant improvements from the looks of things. However, as he swept through turn 2 he got a kick of understeer. He reined in the car for turn 3 but half way through the corner, went wide, and the Lotus careened into the wall. It was a frustrating crash that brought out the Red flag, although it was satisfying to finally see that hideous E22 nose get broken.
There were few other dramas. When the session got going with 13 minutes to go, Sutil was the fall guy along with the ‘young teams’, who were topped for the first time by Max Chilton.
Out: Maldonado, Kobayashi, Ericsson, Bianchi, Chilton, Sutil.
Jean-Eric Vergne lost a wheel in Friday Practice 2, and recieved a 10-place grid penalty, as well as a 30,000 Euro fine for his team, Toro Rosso. Rather than risk him in the mid field carnage, the team opted not to send the Frenchman out, and so he didn’t set a time and will start at the back of the grid.
Despite showing strong race pace, both Force Indias were eliminated, but the team claimed ‘best of the rest’ rights, being the first two drivers to start on fresh rubber.
Out: Kvyat, Gutierrez, Massa, Perez, Bottas, Grosjean.
Q3 began in slightly dramatic circumstances as Sebastian Vettel came to a halt on track, right near where Maldonado crashed. I hope the Marshals in that section get paid ‘per-red-flag-shown’ because it came out again, to clear the stricken Red Bull. It was a gearbox problem that put the World Champion out, losing 2nd gear in the pits, before a loss of all gears later on.
When the track was green again, the mad dash for Pole began. The Mercedes cars predictably set the pace early on with Hamilton edging ahead of Rosberg. Daniel Ricciardo was momentarily within touching distance of the Silver Arrows, barely four hundredths of a second down on Rosberg. As more drivers began to set times, it was clear that the Silver cars would be the benchmark. The Ferraris of Raikkonen and home hero Alonso set times over a second down on those times, and it got worse for them, with Valtteri Bottas and unthinkably, Romain Grosjean’s Lotus beating them to the top grid slots.
1) Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
2) Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
3) Ricciardo, Red Bull
4) Bottas, Williams
5) Grosjean, Lotus
6) Raikkonen, Ferrari
7) Alonso, Ferrari
8) Button, McLaren
9) Massa, Williams
Out in Q2
10) Hulkenberg, Force India
11) Perez, Force India
12) Kvyat, Toro Rosso
13) Gutierrez, Sauber
14) Magnussen, McLaren
15) Vettel, Red Bull (Qualified 10th with no time, but 5-place grid penalty for gearbox change)
Eliminated in Q1
16) Sutil, Sauber
17) Chilton, Marussia
18) Bianchi, Marussia
19) Ericsson, Caterham
20) Kobayashi, Caterham
Maldonado, Lotus (No Time, crashed in Q1)
22) Vergne, Toro Rosso (A 10-place penalty for a loose wheel Q2 sees Vergne at the back)
After the session, Sebastian Vettel had his gearbox changed, which cost him 5 places on the grid; he will start 15th.