It’s all going wrong for defending champion Lewis Hamilton. The news was already bad for the English driver with a five place grid penalty for having his gearbox changed during the Bahrain Grand Prix. Saturday in China saw that position worsen considerably as he failed to record a qualifying time and will start last on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Mercedes felt it was best for Hamilton to have that five-place grid penalty in China where overtaking isn’t too difficult. They didn’t think he’d have to pass every other car in the race though. Hamilton began the weekend 17 points behind his teammate and that’s a gap which could widen considerably with Rosberg starting on pole.
It was a power-unit problem that proved so costly for Lewis in the much better qualifying on Saturday. Ferrari had a great second practice session on Friday but they didn’t manage to get the second spot on the grid,
Raikkonen had been fastest early on in the final session with Rosberg making some mistakes but it was the two Ferrari’s that failed to get pole with Vettel for some reason going for just one qualifying lap and Raikkonen making a mistake on his final lap handing pole to Rosberg who ended up half a second clear of the field. Second place eventually went to Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull just 0.055 seconds ahead of Raikkonen who will start third and Vettel back in fourth.
McLaren will at least have Button and Alonso in the race with the Spaniard fit again. They were looking to get into the final ten cars for qualifying but didn’t have the best of luck. Both drivers were out on the track in second qualifying but then a wheel came off Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India. That caused a red flag and neither McLaren had time to get back out and record a time. Alonso starts 12th and Button 13th. The British driver declared, “One day we will show our true pace.” Could that day be tomorrow when they’ll at least have more tyres available?
Speaking after qualifying, Rosberg said that “it has been a good weekend” but he wasn’t “ecstatic” after what happened to his teammate. Ferrari will definitely see this weekend as a good opportunity to close the gap in the Constructors’ championship where they already trail Mercedes by 50 points after just two races
Hamilton went into qualifying without having any laps in the wet final practice session. When qualifying did begin he complained of his engine being down on power and was called back to the pits. As hard as Mercedes tried they couldn’t get the car back out again. Speaking after qualifying (or his lack of qualifying), Hamilton said, “These things are sent to try us. I’m sure the guys are just as gutted as I am.” He added, “You can overtake here. The tyres do not last too well but of course I will give it everything I’ve got. Hopefully they’ll get the issue fixed and I’ll have a race.”
Rosberg will be hoping for a good start tomorrow and will be doing so on soft tyres, not quite as fast as the super-soft others may have but they will help him for the first part of the race before switching.
Sebastian Vettel remains hopeful though after employing that one lap qualifying method he used here seven years ago. That time he got pole and won the race. His view on the race is: “We saved some tyres for tomorrow. Nico starts on a different compound so it will be interesting.”
Barring mechanical failures, I think Rosberg is going to get his third straight win of the season making it the last six altogether.
The way it’s going I might have to just re-write some of my blogs about it getting a bit boring because Hamilton always wins and just replace his name with Rosberg. Hamilton’s title defence is looking as solid as that of Charles Martin against Anthony Joshua last weekend.
Pillow Motor Sport