After two straight wins and an impressive first and second practice in Azerbaijan, it all went wrong for Lewis Hamiton in qualifying as Nico Rosberg claimed pole.
Previous weekends have seen Hamilton struggle because of problems with his car, this time though it was a series of errors by the World Champion that has led to him only starting in 10th place for the European Grand Prix. Contact with the inside wall at Turn 11 ended his hopes of getting pole. Rosberg now has a great chance of re-building his lead over Hamilton at the top of the table.
The big surprise in qualifying was the performance of Sergio Perez in his Force India. He finished second in qualifying but won’t be starting there. Due to a penalty for a gearbox change he’ll be starting the race in seventh. The gearbox had to be changed after he crashed at Turn 15 in final practice. In second therefore will be Daniel Ricciardo ahead of Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari.
It was one mistake after another for Lewis. He went wide at Turn 15, made further errors at Turn Seven in Q2 when actually going faster than Rosberg and that caused some more problems as he had to race on damaged tyres just to make sure he made it into Q3. Further errors and misjudgements were on their way as he smashed into an inside wall ruining his qualifying once and for all.
McLaren have shown some improvement in recent races but qualfying here was a big disappointment for them. Jenson Button will start 19th on the grid after making a mistake at Turn 15 in Q1. “it’s not happening” was his upsetting message to his engineers. Team-mate Fernando Alonso starts in 14th. This track has the longest straight F1 will race on this season so with McLaren having the least powerful engine this isn’t going to be a weekend they are going to enjoy.
“Not a good day for me. Probably the worst session I’ve ever had in qualifying,” was Hamilton’s sad response to his qualifying nightmare. The British driver added that he didn’t feel comfortable in his car but “ultimately it was only me, nothing to do with the team of car. I just wasn’t feeling good.”
Despite the errors it’s clear that the Mercedes are far superior this weekend. A lot is going to depend on whether the errors can be cut out on a difficult street track. This could well be a race that sees a fair few mishaps, just ask Bottas and Verstappen who clashed a couple of times on Saturday. Rosberg on pole is likely to win this race though barring accidents. Another problem for Lewis Hamilton is that he might not even have a set of tyres in a good enough condition to start the race.
An interesting race looks certain here, even if it might be a Rosberg procession. Enjoy your racing and I’ll be back next week with another blog.