For the first time in his 5 year Formula 1 career, Valtteri Bottas has taken pole. Having looked to be behind Hamilton all afternoon, he pulled it out the bag when it mattered to come in 3 hundredths ahead. Lewis said that he didn’t feel there was anything particular that went wrong with his lap, but that Valtteri just did a better job.
In the press conference, he admitted that this is a technical track and tough to get right so he is really happy with the result and hopes it is the first of many. Twitter was set alight with people congratulating him, a very popular result.
Vettel starts from 3rd and felt that his first run in Q3 was as good as it was going to get, admitting that he tried too hard on his second run. He was disappointed to see that the gap was so big as he felt like he had gotten everything out the car. With Räikkönen coming 5th behind Ricciardo, it was a disappointing day for Ferrari who traditionally go well in the heat. It appears they didn’t have the pace on the Mercedes in qualifying trim but they will be hoping that their previous form in the desert stands them in good stead tomorrow.
Ricciardo was surprised to find himself on the second row ahead of Räikkönen, who complained of irregular tyre temperatures in all 3 sessions. Verstappen came 6th but thinks he could have done better had it not been for catching Massa and loosing temperature trying to build a gap. Both Red Bull guys are realistic about their chances tomorrow with the gap to the front runners pretty clear. They are hoping to be able to work some magic strategically to get them ahead.
It was a great showing from the Renault guys to take 7th and 10th, although Nico was keen to talk dampen the expectations for tomorrow having had a weekend of mixed fortunes in China. Another stand out performance came from Grosjean who managed to take 9th, almost 2 seconds ahead of his team mate, Magnussen. He finished off the session with a nice rendition of Happy Birthday over the radio for his engineer Ian Staniforth.
On Wehrlein’s first qualifying session in the Sauber after returning from time off with a back injury, he managed to out qualify his team mate Marcus Ericsson by over a second. He did confess after the session to being able to feel it in his back when he was out the car so hopefully he isn’t doing more damage by returning so soon. He said after qualifying that he wants to start “paying back for all the mess in the team since his injury”. Has there been mess, Pascal? I’m sure they won’t have noticed!
It was another one to forget for McLaren with Vandoorne going out in Q1. Alonso made it into Q2 but not couldn’t set a lap due to a throttle delivery issue and a grid penalty is looking likely for change of power unit. Back to earth with not such a bang after the hype surrounding the announcement that he will compete in the Indy500 next month.
From the jubilation in China for Sainz, it was disappointment as he broke down in sector 3 in the closing stages of Q1. This leaves him down in 16th place but the yellow flags he brought out also prevented Perez finishing his fast lap leaving him in 18th position.
With the sweltering temperatures here bringing a higher level of tyre degradation than we have seen so far, tomorrow should be more of a strategic battle with it looking like a close call between a one and a two stop.
Can the Mercedes new comer can convert his first pole into his first win, Hamilton and Vettel will have something to say about that!