Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton kicked off his F1 2018 campaign as he secured his 73rd Pole Position ahead of both Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.
In the final part of Qualifying, Hamilton improved by eight tenths of a second on his last lap to take pole by over half a second. Hamilton topped the Q1 session after a couple of attempts to overthrow Kimi Raikkonen’s initial pace. Hamilton was finished a close 2nd in Q2 after Sebastian Vettel’s last gasp lap sent the Ferrari driver to the top. Hamilton’s first lap in Q3 was disrupted by his Mercedes team-mate, Valterri Bottas, who crashed and caused the red flag to come out. When the session restarted, Hamilton improved in all sectors to take pole leaving everyone in his wake.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate, Valterri Bottas, was not as lucky. The Finn, who had taken pole in the last two races of the 2017 season, lagged behind Hamilton throughout the Qualifying session. Bottas started his first “flying” lap in Q3 only to run wide at turn 1, touching the grass, lost control of the car and collided with the barriers ending up in the middle of the track at turn 2. The Finn may incur grid penalties for Sunday’s race and will need to fight hard to work his way up the grid.
Hamilton was surprised to see Ferrari so close. A resurgent Kimi Raikkonen out-qualified team-mate Sebastian Vettel to 2nd on the grid with both looking in fine form and looking forward to tomorrow’s race.
Red Bull look in good form as well and may have the upper-hand in the race when it comes to strategy. Both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo ran the Supersoft tyre instead of the Ultrasoft tyre in Q2 and therefore will start on the Supersoft tyre for the race while everyone else will start on the Ultrasoft tyre. Ricciardo, who qualified 5th, just behind Verstappen in 4th, will take a 3 place grid penalty for speeding under red flag conditions.
The surprise of the weekend so far has been Haas with both, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean making it through to Q3. Haas carry their pace from Pre-Season Testing by out-performing Renault and McLaren. Both drivers will move up a position due to Ricciardo’s penalty with points being on offer on Sunday.
Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10 in 8th and 9th with Bottas not setting a time. At least for now, the “works” Renault team are ahead of McLaren and remain close to Haas. Sunday’s battle will be exciting to watch.
Finally! McLaren had a decent qualifying with Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne just missing out in a place in the top 10 in 11th and 12th. Both drivers are upbeat and optimistic for the race tomorrow. Points tomorrow would be a great way to start off their partnership with Renault.
It seems that Force India, who finished 4th last year in the championship, have gone backwards with both drivers failing to make Q3. This just goes to show how tight the mid-field battle is. Sergio Perez was able to get the better of Esteban Ocon in 13th and 15th. Neither driver made Q3 last year and went onto to score points – hope is not lost.
Another team who looked to have slipped back is Williams. Both drivers were in danger of putting out in Q1 but a great lap by Lance Stroll secured his place in Q2. Newcomer Sergey Sirotkin couldn’t find the pace to escape Q1 and will line-up 19th. Stroll, managed to split the Force India’s in 14th but points may be hard to come by in the race.
Toro Rosso will be disappointed to start off their new partnership with Honda in 16th and 20th. Brendon Hartley got the better of team-mate Pierre Gasly and aims to score points tomorrow with a predicted P10 in mind. Gasly had to abort his final lap as he ran through the gravel.
Sauber might have excited Q1 but were able to out-qualify a Williams and Toro Rosso car. There were fears that Sauber would right at the back of the grid but their pace suggest that there is no back-markers at the moment. Marcus Ericsson, who was 12th at one stage in Q1, marginally out-qualified rookie Charles Leclerc in 17th and 18th and both hope to have a clean race tomorrow.
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:21:164
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:21:828
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:21:838
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:21:879
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:22:152
- Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 1:23:187
- Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:23:339
- Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:23:532
- Carlos Sainz Jr, Renault 1:23:577
- Valterri Bottas, Mercedes, no time
- Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:23:692
- Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:23:853
- Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:24:005
- Lance Stroll, Williams, 1:24:230
- Esteban Ocon, Force India, 1:24:786
- Brendon Hartley, Toro Rosso, 1:24:532
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:24:556
- Charles Leclerc, Sauber, 1:24:636
- Sergey Sirotkin, Williams, 1:24:922
- Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, 1:25:295