2015 Bahrain Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

As the sun set and the lights took over, it was Lewis Hamilton who once again lit up the timing screens on a Saturday, to claim a fourth consecutive pole position and his first in Bahrain. However, Mercedes’ evening was rather dampened, when Sebastian Vettel managed to edge Nico Rosberg off of the front row in Q3. In fact, a cautious Rosberg was fortunate to retain P3, as both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas both threatened to displace him. Regardless, the stage is set for an epic race tomorrow, as both Ferrari’s have placed themselves well and truly in play for the race win.



2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Nico Notches Another Pole

“A small step” was the phrase used by Nico Rosberg in the post-qualifying press conference, in regards to his pole position in Abu Dhabi. The German has done everything he needed to do today, yet has his title rival Lewis Hamilton for company on the front row. It was not as comfortable for the Mercedes duo as was first anticipated, as Williams once again controlled the best-of-the-rest accolade, and came close to toppling Mercedes’ supremacy. Turn one tomorrow promises to be fascinating.

On The Limit

Ultimately, Hamilton paid the price for making too many mistakes in Q3 today. As so often has been the case in 2014, Nico was the calmer of the two drivers and managed to maximise his Q3 potential while his teammate pushed beyond the limits of the all-conquering W05. 
The four tenths between the pair is a huge margin in the context of a season which has been determined by fractions. Missing the apex after a lock-up at turn one contributed a significant portion of this deficit and it was only a repeat of Hamilton’s previous run in which it was the final complex where he reached the limit of grip. It is accepted that Lewis places huge demands on his brakes – slowing the car down has been his Achilles heel ever since he made the switch from McLaren to Mercedes, and this year, his brake complaints have been brought into sharp focus due to the intensity of the title fight. Today was another case study in how influential time lost in braking zones can be to an overall lap time and it was an issue which had been growing from FP3 onwards. 
However, the tendency has been for Lewis to recover during the race. Following his performance in Austin, he knows that he can pass Nico, on track, during the race and therefore, the emphasis placed on qualifying is seemingly far less significant than it was back at the start of the campaign. Tomorrow, could be a very different race, due to the title permutations. Nico could have the pace to win outright, but that will not be good enough to take the ultimate prize. As such, considering the fact that Rosberg is a master tactician, he could potentially back Hamilton into the chasing pack, in order to create an uncomfortable environment for Lewis and allow for a Valtteri Bottas or Felipe Massa to spoil his party. There are a multitude of scenarios which could play out in tomorrow’s race and the only certainty is that it will be fascinating. Rosberg’s pole position has provided the perfect stage for a thrilling finale.  

Teammate Tussle’s Decided

It is an effective measure of a driver’s ultimate speed, and as such, beating a teammate in qualifying over the course of a season is hugely important to a driver’s market value. The greatest advantage of having an uneven number of races is that these statistics provide definitive results.
Heading into today, the only Saturday battles which had not been decided where at Sauber and more poignantly, McLaren. Adrian Sutil progressed into Q2 at the expense of his teammate, while Jenson Button sent a message to the McLaren boardroom, edging out Kevin Magnussen who dropped out at the Q2 stage. However, following their impressive demonstration in FP2, McLaren were disappointed with their P8 and P11. In many ways, this is testament to how far they have come during this season. 

Result Deflection

In locking out the third row, Red Bull had achieved their potential today – the Mercedes and Williams were a bridge too far. Regardless, Daniel Ricciardo was once again supreme, out-qualifying Vettel by six tenths and posing the only true threat to the fabulous four. However, much like in 2012, Red Bull’s Saturday in Abu Dhabi has ended with unwelcome headlines depicting technicalities. 
While it was an insufficient fuel sample which saw Sebastian Vettel thrown out of qualifying in 2012, flexing front wing flaps has been the issue concerning the stewards this time around – and it has seen both cars disqualified from qualifying and forced to the back of the grid.
Flexi-wings has been a technical issue for several years and the ‘pit-lane policeman’, FIA Technical Delegate, Jo Bauer, has kept a close eye on such areas. Ultimately, the rules limit the use of moveable aerodynamics, in accordance with Article 3.15 of the Technical Regulations and Bauer has deemed that Red Bull’s front wing, on this day in history, has flexed too significantly. The mystery remains as to why this issue was not detected earlier in the weekend – answers on a postcard please. 
The end result is that Vettel and Ricciardo will either start from the back of the field, or the pit-lane tomorrow. I expect Red Bull to fit ‘skinny’, low drag rear wings overnight, to promote overtaking on the straights. This worked magnificently well for Vettel in 2012 and considering that Ricciardo was five kilometres per hour down on the straights in FP3, the additional top speeds will be welcomed again. However, such a change will see the team break Parc Fermé regulations and as such, they would have to start from the pit-lane. Personally, I think the latter option makes sense, but I am not the one with the terabytes of telemetry!
FP1 Timesheet
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:41.424 
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.369 
3 Felipe Massa Williams +1.005
4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1.229 
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +1.255 
6 Jenson Button McLaren +1.344 
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.349 
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1.370 
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1.385 
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.614 
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1.688
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +1.928
13 Sergio Perez Force India +1.936 
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +2.077 
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +2.219 
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +2.294 
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus +2.354
18 Adrian Sutil Sauber +2.598 
19 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +3.620
20 Will Stevens Caterham +4.535 
Qualifying Result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 
4 Felipe Massa Williams
5 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 
6 Jenson Button McLaren 
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 
10 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
11 Sergio Perez Force India
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 
13 Adrian Sutil Sauber 
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 
15 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 
16 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 
17 Will Stevens Caterham
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus* 
19 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull**
20 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull** 
*Romain Grosjean serves a 20-place grid penalty for using two components of a sixth powertrain. He will additionally serve a drive-through penalty on account of not serving his full allocation of grid places.
**Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo will start from the back of the grid for breeching Article 3.15 of the Technical Regulations.

2014 Brazilian Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Williams In Play As Rosberg Takes Pole Crown

It is official – Nico Rosberg’s name will be the first to be etched onto the newly established pole position trophy, as the German edged out Lewis Hamilton by a mere 0.033. However, with Rosberg having only converted two of his previous nine poles this season, Hamilton’s hopes of a 33rd career victory are as alive as ever. Meanwhile, Williams could be well placed to spring a surprise tomorrow, as both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were remarkably strong today, locking out the second row on a circuit where they should theoretically struggle. 

Brazilian Brilliance

The fans in Brazil certainly are a passionate group of supporters and Felipe Massa is evidently winning the popularity contests this weekend. The home-town hero met a standing ovation upon greeting the fans following his qualifying performance which saw him clinch P3, yet looked as though his second pole of the season was on the cards during Q3. 
Williams suddenly became a threat to the Mercedes duo during Q2, where Bottas and Massa displaced Hamilton. It came as somewhat of a surprise that the team were so fast on a circuit where the second sector demands a significant quantity of mechanical grip – something that the FW36 has been lacking this season, (a trait evident in wet weather conditions.) While they dropped time in the heart of the lap, both cars were hauling around 0.3 seconds back on the steep incline uphill, which forms the vast majority of the final sector. 
Ultimately, the Mercedes had just enough in reserve to keep the Williams pairing at bay in the final stages. Hamilton’s hopes of pole were lost at the ever challenging Turn 10, where he suffered a lock-up followed by a snap of oversteer which sent him, albeit marginally, wide. In typical style, it was a mistake which seemed to be a result of Hamilton exuberance on the brakes. It is a natural part of his technique and while it often works, it occasionally bites back. Today was a case of the latter.
Damon Hill struck the proverbial nail on the head in Sky Sports F1‘s post-qualifying analysis, suggesting that Rosberg builds up from 9 to 10 during a weekend, while Hamilton “starts at 12 and works down.” So far in Brazil, the latter has been the winning technique, but Lewis has the confidence that comes from beating his teammate in similar circumstances just six days ago and will take this into tomorrow’s race. 

Missing A Mercedes-Benz

Behind the Mercedes powered top five, it was remarkably close. Sebastian Vettel qualified in P6 and outperforming teammate Daniel Ricciardo. While the Aussie may be in P9, the tight nature of the chasing pack means that the margin between the Red Bull duo was only a mere 0.15 seconds – not as thin as the cigarette paper between the title contenders, but still a gap which promises to provide an exciting battle tomorrow. Vettel could be on for a good Sunday, on the basis that his pace today followed a challenging FP3 session. However, a good Sunday may only amount to P5, considering the race pace demonstrated by the front four, (assuming that the race is dry.)
Meanwhile, Ferrari will start behind both McLaren drivers tomorrow, as their attention has seemingly switched from focussing on returning to P3 in the constructors, to defending a vulnerable P4 from a McLaren outfit enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. The Woking team have once again used their vast resources to good effect and developed well over the course of the campaign. Despite the MP4-29 being a sensitive machine, sizable progress has undoubtedly been made, to the extent that McLaren are now able to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari – often beating them. 

Excellent Esteban

After discovering that he has been replaced at Sauber for 2015, Esteban Gutierrez bagged a well-deserved P11 in qualifying today – his best result of the season. While it could be suggested that this breakthrough result has come too late in the season, it is still an excellent advert as Gutierrez begins a campaign to claim another drive. Early speculation suggests that a seat as a reserve driver at a top outfit is a possibility, yet the next few weeks will be critical. An equally impressive performance tomorrow will certainly help his cause.

FP3 Timesheet
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:10.446
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:10.560
3 Felipe Massa Williams 1:10.875
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:11.054
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:11.188
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1:11.210
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:11.316
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:11.399
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:11.499
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:11.834
11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:11.967
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:12.069
13 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:12.184
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:12.235
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:12.235
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:12.286
17 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:12.324
18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:12.942

Qualifying Result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3 Felipe Massa Williams
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams
5 Jenson Button McLaren
6 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
9 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
11 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
13 Adrian Sutil Sauber
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso*
18 Sergio Perez Force India**

*Daniil Kvyat carries a grid penalty across from an internal combustion engine change in Austin
**Sergio Perez received a seven place grid drop, after his contact with Adrian Sutil in Austin

2014 US Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Rosberg’s Number Nine

Just went it seemed like Lewis Hamilton was preparing to strike a hammer blow to Nico Rosberg’s title tilt, the German has delivered in the style of a true champion. After being beaten in each and every practice session by Hamilton, the man who has taken victory four times consecutively, Rosberg has won a crucial mental battle and thrown the gauntlet down with a spectacular pole lap. Hamilton may have struggled with brake issues but today was Rosberg’s day. Can he convert his eighth pole of the season to his fifth victory?

Perfect Timing

Despite the hydraulic leak in FP2 and the ever-present brake concerns, Lewis seemed to have everything covered this weekend. The Englishman carried his excellent practice pace, which had seen him top FP3, into qualifying, as he controlled proceedings in Q1. However, the brake problems which had proved to be an intermittent concern throughout yesterday’s running recurred, just as Nico Rosberg began to build a head of steam himself. As Lewis’ frustration with what he termed a “thing” rather than a “car” became evident, Nico demonstrated the pace that he promised was in his pocket yesterday. Topping the timesheet in emphatic fashion in Q2, the German carried this form into the final part of qualifying and Lewis had no answer to his title rival.
This turn of speed was even more impressive, considering the fact that Nico had suffered an FP3 interrupted by brake issues of his own. He experienced glazing of his discs, which meant that his running was limited. This unquestionably contributed another hurdle for him to clear, adding to those which are the inevitable hangover of being beaten four times consecutively by your teammate. 
For me, this was Rosberg’s best performance of the season – and what a time to deliver it. On a circuit which has been a Hamilton venue in its admittedly short history, Rosberg has placed the Brit on the backfoot. This may be his first visit to the circuit in which he has a car potential of guiding him to victory, but many people had Hamilton down as their favourite to take another win. While this is merely a step towards 25 points, Nico has dramatically swung the state of affairs in the mental battle today and threatens to take his fifth victory at a pivotal point in the campaign.

Winning Ways

Mercedes are in dominant form this weekend, but the battle to be best of the rest seems to be as fierce as ever. Williams stepped up to the plate once again and locked out the second row of the grid, with Valtteri Bottas taking P3 and Felipe Massa in P4. Bottas’ sparkling form continues and the Finn is becoming more confident and looks more and more likely to cement his fourth position in the championship.
However, Daniel Ricciardo will have an excellent shot at the final spot on the podium tomorrow, qualifying in a highly respectable P5. The Aussie was not only the highest placed Renault runner but also demonstrated highly commendable long run pace on Friday, which should allow him to challenge the Williams duo in the race. Starting on the clean side of the grid may also permit an early overtake on Massa at Turn 1.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel did make an appearance in qualifying after it seems the FIA backed Red Bull into a corner. While from an engineering perspective, it makes no sense to run in a session when a pit lane start is imminent, this excuse for not competing may have proved to be insufficient for the FIA who would withhold the right to prevent Vettel from entering the race on account of being outside of the 107% rule. Consequently, Vettel completed one flying lap in Q1, putting on a show for his many adoring fans and then dropped out of the session in the opening exchanges. Red Bull played the situation to perfection. Expect to see Vettel charging through the field on Sunday afternoon, as the team have opted for a low drag rear wing to promote his straight line speed and make overtaking in the DRS zone substantially easier. Moreover, all of the work completed in practice has been geared towards race simulation – it is fair to assume that his race setup is near optimum.

Sauber’s Surprise

Amid talks of a race boycott on financial grounds, it was the so-called ‘small teams’ who enjoyed great qualifying results. Firstly, Adrian Sutil managed to squeeze into the final part of qualifying, to the delight of his team, for the very first time this season. Sauber, who are yet to score a point in 2014, will start the race with a car in ninth place, while Pastor Maldonado is to start in P10 for Lotus. Similarly to Sutil, Maldonado is yet to score a point in 2014 and after a dismal 2013 campaign at Williams, the Venezuelan looks to end a points drought which began back in August last year.

FP3 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.107
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.990
3 Felipe Massa Williams 1:38.214
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:38.437
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:38.727
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:38.927
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:38.960
8 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:39.000
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:39.143
10 Jenson Button McLaren 1:39.241
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:39.335
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:39.448
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:39.561
14 Sergio Perez Force India 1:39.582
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:39.688
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:40.208
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:41.443
18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:43.765

Qualifying Result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams
4 Felipe Massa Williams
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
9 Adrian Sutil Sauber
10 Pastor Maldonado Lotus
11 Sergio Perez Force India
12 Jenson Button McLaren*
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
14 Jean Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso**
18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull***

*Jenson Button recieved a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
**Daniil Kvyat recieved a ten place grid penalty for using a sixth internal combustion engine.
***Sebastian Vettel will start from the pit lane after taking a sixth powertrain.

2014 Russian Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Hamilton Hangs On

While Mercedes continue to be the class of the field in 2014, qualifying on the front-row is becoming far more of a challenge for the Brackley squad. Lewis Hamilton may have sealed his seventh pole position of the season today, with teammate Nico Rosberg in tow, but it was Valtteri Bottas who threatened Mercedes supremacy and but for a disastrous end to the lap, the Finn would surely have claimed his maiden P1. With one Williams in P3 and the other down in P18, it was certainly a day of mixed fortunes for Williams. 

Battling BOT

He may not be a rookie, but Valtteri Bottas has been somewhat of a revelation this season. The Finn has been billed as the best thing since sliced bread by many highly esteemed analysts and throughout 2013, glimmers of this potential shone through, yet it was largely an unconvincing season. However, with an excellent car to work with and all the confidence that comes with a string of impressive performances, Valtteri has emerged as one of Formula 1’s brightest talents.
The only surprise then is that Bottas was unable to clinch his first pole position today, after heading into the final sector with an albeit small advantage. His snap of oversteer at Turn 17 led to another slide at Turn 18 and in but a few seconds, the competitive nature of the lap had been reduced to disappointment. For a driver dubbed the new Iceman, his tyres certainly were not cool enough when he arrived to complete the lap. With the Sochi Autodrom quickly proving to be a rear-limited circuit, the rear tyres have been the suspect area for overheating during the course of the weekend and by taking a touch too much life out of the tyres during the first two sectors, Bottas was left short in the crucial final corners.
Regardless, it was a valiant effort at a pole position which ultimately fell to the likely candidate in the end. Hamilton has looked spectacular throughout the weekend and barring a spin at Turn 17 in FP3, the Brit has been near faultless – no mean feat at a brand new venue. While Nico Rosberg has unquestionably improved upon what was a difficult Friday, (in typical Nico fashion might I add), the German could not do enough to overhaul the margin to his title rival. Advantage Hamilton, in what could prove to be a pivotal race in terms of the title fight. Surely Rosberg cannot afford to allow Hamilton another win and yet another extension of what is a growing points advantage.

MarkedLy Improved

Despite being stooped in history, qualifying P4 and P6 is quite an achievement for McLaren in their current circumstances. After Jenson Button once again demonstrated his wet weather credentials in Japan, the team have continued this momentum into this weekend, with the circuit seemingly playing to the MP4-29’s strengths.
Both Button and Magnussen looked very strong throughout yesterday’s sessions, with both long and short run times making for promising reading. While they seemed to take a step backwards in FP3, they reacquainted themselves with their Friday speed in the afternoon, with Jenson Button rounding out the second row and Kevin Magnussen in P6, (yet a gearbox change will demote him to a P11 starting spot.) Considering the fact that the Dane is typically considered to be the better qualifier, this was either a stunning display of pace from Button, or a McLaren car with even more potential to unlock. Regardless, the team will have enjoyed today and such a result will give them a boost not just for tomorrow, but for the remainder of the season.

Hometown Hero

So it may only be Saturday, but Daniil Kvyat has certainly given the Russian fans something to cheer about already this weekend. Both Toro Rosso’s were threatening to make a statement throughout Friday and again this morning and when the pressure was on, the young Russian delivered a stunning lap to go P5 – just seven tenths shy of the pole time. Quite a statement, particularly when Sebastian Vettel had fallen out of the running during the Q2 stage. Kvyat certainly has big shoes to fill at Red Bull, but judging by how he coped with the pressure of today, I am starting to think that he will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015. If he can hold station tomorrow, or even move forward, the crowd will certainly enjoy their first experience of Formula 1.

Excellent Ericsson

It seems that getting out-qualified emphatically by debutante Andre Lotterer in Spa has been a wake-up call to Marcus Ericsson, as the Swede demonstrated impressive qualifying pace today, comfortably beating Kamui Kobayashi by six tenths, as well as Pastor Maldonado and a limping Williams of Felipe Massa along the way. While Pastor was lacking FP3 running and Felipe suffered a engine mapping issue, Marcus’ exploits could prove to be an invaluable asset to go on his CV after what has been a season full of trials and tribulations for the young rookie.

GP2 Crown For Jolyon

It may not be Formula 1, but Jolyon Palmer certainly deserves a special mention today, as the Englishman sealed the GP2 title with three races to spare. After a dreadful day for his closest challenger Felipe Nasr, which saw the Brazilian fail to register a single point, Palmer had to win the race in order to confirm his place on top of the championship. Easier said than done, as he was hounded throughout the second half of the race by Mitch Evans.
However, Jolyon soaked up the pressure demonstrating all the properties of a good sponge and managed to hold off Mitch. It remains to be seen whether a Formula 1 seat will be available for Palmer next season, with the newly-crowned GP2 champion unable to remain in the series for a following year. Taking the title has proved to be somewhat of a poison chalice for the two previous winners, Davide Valsecchi and Fabio Leimer, but with Rosberg, Hamilton, and Hulkenberg to name but a few drivers who have made a successful accession, there is certainly a chance that Palmer will be on the grid in Melbourne.


2014 Japanese Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Rosberg Capitalises On Lewis’ Mistake

Following the monumental news that Sebastian Vettel’s time at Red Bull has come to an end, Qualifying was somewhat of an anti-climatic end to the day. In fact, today’s qualifying was perhaps the least important session, of its type, of the year, considering the dire weather forecast, as all eyes are on Typhoon Phanfone. Nevertheless, Lewis Hamilton’s clumsy crash at turn two during FP3 gave Nico Rosberg the upper hand in their usual Saturday duel and the German did not disappoint, taking P1 on the grid. A mistake from Hamilton on the exit of Spoon Curve cost him those all important two tenths which eventually split the duo. While overtaking is challenging at Suzuka – almost every aspect of the circuit is just that – the predicted 11 millimeters of rain per hour tomorrow, may well make the qualifying result reasonably academic.

Mercedes A-Class

A Mercedes front row lockout has hardly been a collectors item this season and despite many analysts suggesting that the chasing pack had made significant strides towards the championship leaders in recent weeks, Mercedes’ advantage looked as healthy as ever today. Despite a difficult morning following Lewis’ crash, the unwanted repair work was completed just in time and did not disrupt qualifying for Hamilton.
However, the lack of experience on the medium compound tyre may have been the differentiating factor between Rosberg and Hamilton today, with the latter making the costly mistake in the final part of qualifying. Rosberg simply had the edge over his rival throughout the day and was, in truth, good value for his 12th career pole.
“It wasn’t the best of sessions today but it was a decent recovery considering the crash in FP3,” Hamilton said. “I just overcooked it this morning and the team did a fantastic job to put the car back together. Our mechanics are the best, they work so hard to get everything perfect. I feel good but I just wasn’t quick enough today.”
While it was a battle for supremacy at Mercedes which decided the front row, Valtteri Bottas won the battle to be best of the rest, with a superb lap, just six tenths shy of Rosberg’s timesheet topping attempt. Considering the forecast for tomorrow, Bottas may have a chance of victory, should the race be as chaotic as is suggested. His previous performances in the wet have highlighted these credentials.

In Need Of An RB9? 

While the RB10 has been somewhat of a revelation this season, considering its frequent failures in pre-season testing, Red Bull found themselves at a significant pace deficit today. Headline forging Sebastian Vettel could only manage P9, while Daniel Ricciardo, soon to be the most experienced man in the Red Bull pile, had to settle for P6.
It is highly likely that the team may have opted to carry much more downforce into the session, accounting for the weather forecast for tomorrow’s race more than their rivals. It seemed suspiciously so, when Vettel found himself eight tenths off of the pace in the technical sector one – I doubt the RB10’s chassis has gone from superior to inferior in the space of two weeks. As such, it will be interesting to see if Red Bull can recover their weekend tomorrow. Certainly, a podium is still obtainable, despite Williams looking like they have the upper hand, albeit in the dry.

Lotus Lethargic

In a session of few surprises, Lotus suffered yet another dismal afternoon, with both cars dropping out of qualifying at the Q1 stage. To compound the issue, Pastor Maldonado’s ten-place grid drop due to his using of a sixth internal combustion engine, could not be fully served this weekend, with five places being carried over to the Russian Grand Prix, next weekend. A miserable season gets even worse for a Lotus team still stuck on their tally of eight points. Ultimately, they will hope for wet conditions tomorrow, as a wet circuit is notorious for leveling the playing field.
FP3 Timesheet
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.228

2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.982
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1.211
4 Felipe Massa Williams +1.336
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1.833
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.858
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +2.023
8 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +2.266
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.310
10 Jenson Button McLaren +2.321
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +2.504
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +2.767
13 Sergio Perez Force India +3.137
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +3.179
15 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +3.232
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus +3.330
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +3.389
18 Adrian Sutil Sauber +3.398
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham +4.139
20 Max Chilton Marussia +4.655
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia +4.874

22 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +5.556

Qualifying Result

1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams
4 Felipe Massa Williams
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
8 Jenson Button McLaren
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
12 Sergio Perez Force India
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
15 Adrian Sutil Sauber
16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus
18 Marcus Ericsson Caterham
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham

21 Max Chilton Marussia
22 Pastor Maldonado Lotus*

*Pastor Maldonado drops five places as a result of exceeding the maximum allowance of internal combustion engines.

2014 Singapore Grand Prix: Saturday Analysis

Sizzling Singapore Delivers Scintillating Qualifying 

Another Saturday and another front-row lockout for the Mercedes duo, with Lewis Hamilton leading Nico Rosberg for the second weekend running. However, this particular Saturday was far from straightforward for Mercedes, as Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams all made substantial bids for pole position themselves. So much so, that after the first runs in Q3, Hamilton and Rosberg found themselves P6 and P7 respectively. It was an incredible fightback, a dramatic day, and one which has set the foundations for a thrilling race tomorrow.


Qualifying is teed up nicely after an FP3 session which saw the margins at the top of the timesheet significantly reduced. Fernando Alonso topped the timesheet for the second time this weekend, while Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished P3 and P6 respectively. However, Mercedes have been known to conceal their ultimate pace and I would be unsurprised if they lock-out the front row come 3pm this afternoon. 
From a sporting perspective, it would be great to see a grid which reflects the FP3 formbook. Evidently, the technical Marina Bay Street Circuit, highlights driver skill and consequently, Fernando Alonso’s influence seems to be proving very valuable this weekend. The tendency is for Ferrari to look deceivingly impressive on Friday’s, while their pace begins fade as the business end of the weekend draws nearer. Topping the timesheet in FP3 is very promising for Ferrari fans who are in need of a positive result. 
Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo finished in P2, with Sebastian Vettel in P5. The Red Bull Racing duo look very impressive once again, building on the solid foundations laid yesterday, despite Vettel’s technical tribulations. While the German was playing dare with the barriers yesterday, Ricciardo was the man to use up each and every inch of the circuit this morning. The Aussie was finding the limit to good effect and as Lewis Hamilton once suggested, the fastest way around a street circuit is to kiss the barriers. Both Ricciardo and Vettel look to be in good form ahead of this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Mercedes appear to have lost some pace overnight – or at least, the timesheet suggests a drop in pace. At least Nico Rosberg managed to post a representative time this morning, with Maldonado behaving himself and staying well clear of the barriers. While Rosberg’s lap on the super-soft compound was cool, calm and collected, Hamilton’s effort was decisively ragged, in typical Hamilton fashion. At least on the surface, Lewis seems to be struggling to find a balance and has some work to do ahead of qualifying. Whether Mercedes have lost as much pace as this morning suggests is yet unknown, but I would predict that the team are keeping at least a few vital tenths in their pockets.
Worth a notable mention ahead of qualifying are Toro Rosso and Jean Eric Vergne in particular. The Frenchman ended the morning in P4 and while Kvyat was P14, it looks as though the Italian team will be working deep into the hour as a Q3 appearance is on the cards. Elsewhere, Esteban Gutierrez seems set for a promising day, with an excellent qualifying simulation run placing him in P10. Sauber are yet to reach Q3 this season, yet Esteban is emerging as somewhat of a Singapore specialist, after his appearance in the final part of qualifying last season. If he can repeat the performance today, it will be an excellent achievement and one which could prove vital in the contract negotiations.
FP3 Timesheet

1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:47.299
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +0.051
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.189
4 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +0.394
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +0.412
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.439 
7 Felipe Massa Williams +0.610
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams +0.906
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.927
10 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +1.123
11 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1.151
12 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1.278
13 Jenson Button McLaren +1.300
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1.338
15 Sergio Perez Force India +1.779
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber +1.816
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus +2.186
18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +2.850
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia +3.077
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +3.640
21 Max Chilton Marussia +3.922
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham +4.299

Qualifying Analysis

Mercedes Front Row Lockout – Just

Mercedes front row lockouts have hardly been hard to come by this season, but today’s result was an outstanding achievement for the team considering that both Hamilton and Rosberg faced significant pressure from their chief rivals, with the pair jumping from P6 and P7 at the start of Q3 to the head of the field. While their laps may not have been perfect, they were just good enough.
Even more poignant was the margin by which the title contending duo were separated – 0.007 split Hamilton in P1 from Rosberg in P2, which is the equivalent distance of a front wing end-fence. These fine margins have been a trait of their battle throughout this season and today, Nico was the party to fall just short. “Damn it” was the response given by him on the radio once he was informed of the inconceivably small margin which prevented him from claiming his eight pole of the season.
However, the gap could have been significantly greater, had Lewis Hamilton not suffered a rather substantial lock-up into the first corner on his final lap. To make the apex of the corner was an achievement in itself, but he also managed to hold the tight line necessary in order to optimise entry into Turn Three. While he may have exceeded track limits, he did not gain an advantage and in fact, lost almost two tenths. However, Lewis did not abort the lap, did not overdrive and managed to snatch Pole at the last moment.

Williams Resurgent

After a Friday which Felipe Massa suggested was the worst of his career, optimism was at a premium heading into qualifying in regards to Williams’ chances. It was no surprise then, to see Claire Williams in a state of shock when Felipe took provisional pole position after the first runs in Q3. While they eventually slipped to P6 with Massa and P8 with Bottas, it was an excellent performance considering that the circuit characteristics suggested that this weekend would be somewhat of a right off.
Even during Q2, Williams were unfortunately living up to the low expectations for the weekend, with both drivers needing a good final run to haul themselves out of the dreaded drop zone. However, as demonstrated in Austria, the FW36 has a tendency to come alive on the super-soft rubber and this was the case today. Whether they will be able to sustain a consistent race pace, considering the fact that they will have to venture to at least one soft tyre stint, remains to be seen. Overall, today was very promising for Williams and much better than expected.

“I Could Have Had Pole”

The Singapore specialist, Sebastian Vettel, may have managed to complete the Red Bull lockout of the second row, but the German was disappointed to have not enjoyed an even better afternoon. After a scruffy lap to end the day, Vettel suggested that there was the potential for a pole position today – an opportunity missed in a season where opportunity has been at a premium. That fact was compounded by Daniel Ricciardo who once again edged out his teammate.
“I’m not happy with that final lap, I was pushing a bit too hard and didn’t get it all together, so I’m not entirely happy, but it is what it is now,” Vettel stated. A Red Bull win tomorrow is a strong possibility, with Ricciardo demonstrating excellent long run performance on Friday. Ultimately, Vettel’s chances of triumph tomorrow are slightly slimmer than his counterpart, since he will enter the race without any FP2 long runs in his armoury. While he will have undoubtedly studied Daniel’s data, (and taken great optimism from it), it cannot replace that all important primary experience.

Rolling Back The Years

Ferrari may have been suffering one of their most disappointing season’s in recent memory, but today’s performance was so nearly reminiscent of the glory days of the Schumacher era. Both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen were in great form, with the latter managing to top the timesheet in Q1 – The first time RAI had appeared on top of the pile at the chequered flag so far this season. 
While it seemed as though Ferrari could potentially score a 1-2 when setting the timing screens alight early on in the hour, their session somewhat derailed in Q3. Raikkonen suffered a mysterious electrical issue before his final run, at a time when he sat P4 on the timesheet. A heartbreaking turn of events for the Iceman. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso took his customary spot of P5, despite a deficit of just over two tenths to Hamilton. 
“We have been competitive in all free practice sessions as we normally are, then in the qualifying we normally lose some time, but today we remained competitive in qualifying so that is very good news,” he told Sky Sports F1. Ferrari are another team who could challenge the Mercedes duo tomorrow. While Alonso and Raikkonen may struggle to keep up with the front four, the high probability of a safety car could see them brought back into play, should they become detached.

Qualifying Result
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.681
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:45.688
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:45.854
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:45.902
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:45.907
6 Felipe Massa Williams 1:46.000
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:46.170
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:46.187
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:46.250
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:47.362
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1:46.943
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:46.989
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:47.308
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:47.333
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:47.575
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:47.812
17 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:48.324
18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:49.063
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:49.440
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:50.405
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1:50.473
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:52.287