The last grand prix of the season will allow the teams to breathe a sigh of relief after such a push for development both for the cars and drivers. Before that, it’s time to get into one more pressure cooker of a session. Weather was extremely hot during FP3, with wind also being a big factor in aerodynamics, how will they cope as the day goes on and conditions change?
Q1 saw no real surprises at the front, both Mercedes at the top, leading the two Ferraris and Red Bulls respectively. It’s worth mentioning though that Bottas was a fraction quicker than Hamilton by the end of the session.
Perez managed a storming lap to put himself seventh, ahead of the team’s nearest rivals, McLaren and Renault, which is a tough battle for position in the points table this year.
Stroll submitted a last minute dash to the line to get himself through to Q2, after struggling with the car this weekend.
Hamilton came out fighting early and put in a 1:36.742, with Bottas close behind on a 1:36.822
Both Ferraris were within half a second, followed by Red Bull. Verstappen seemed to be struggling with pace early on but managed to drag himself up to sixth, behind Ricciardo, again.
The mid table battle looked to continue being nip and tuck, Hulkenberg lead Perez and Ocon, followed by Massa, who managed to sneak himself into Q3 at the last opportunity, knocking out Alonso.
The real drama came on the last run with Perez driving slowly on the racing line and making an unpredictable move into the pitlane, which left Hulkenberg nowhere to go. Thankfully no contact but there is sure to be a penalty involved.
Q3 seemed to initially be as you’d expect, on the whole. Both Mercedes at the top followed by the two Ferraris and two Red Bulls. However, with Bottas putting in a stunning 1:36.231 and Hamilton being near 2 tenths behind on first run, things were already shaken up. On the final runs, both made mistakes and ended up with their banker laps being the decider for pole.
Vettel managed to out qualify Raikkonen, which doesn’t seem to happen as often as you’d expect. They were split at the last minute by Ricciardo who seemed to have better form this weekend so far over the Dutchman.
The Hulk topped the mid table battle ahead of Perez, Ocon and Massa, who starts his final race in F1 in tenth.
Barring any penalties, the grid looks as follows:
What are your predictions? Will Bottas retain his pole into the first corner? Will Vettel make a big move? Let us know!
Jay Daniels – @jaydaniels_