What We Learned From Silverstone Qualy
Saturday 05-July-2014 15:57
It was the most dramatic Qualifying for decades as teams and drivers who misjudged the weather lost out in spectacular fashion...
Nico Rosberg has grabbed pole position for the British GP in what must rank as one of the most exciting and unpredictable qualifying sessions of all time. As Sebastian Vettel said after the session, "you have so many different kinds of rain in England, you had drops, you had drizzle, and you had like a fine spray". Force India's Nico Hulkenberg agreed, "it was crazy, when it was wet, it was slippery and you had no grip, but then it dried up really quickly after five cars went through and it was dry again."
In the closing seconds, Lewis Hamilton went from pole position to P6, and gave up the chance of setting another fast lap by letting his team-mate past and returning to the pits. It was a massive mistake, although not as bad as those made by the Ferrari and Williams teams in Q1 who finished in P19 and P20, and P17 and P18.
Ron Dennis was hosting Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in the McLaren pit and celebrated with a P3 and P5 from his drivers. Jenson Button, wearing a special pink helmet in memory of his father, Jon (Papa Smurf) Button, grabbed P3 in the absence of Ferraris and Williams. It was his best qualifying at Silverstone in nearly ten years.
It will be hard to find a Ferrari grid position as lowly as P19 and P20 in the record books. Both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen went out on the Medium slick tyre just when it started raining again and quickly lost tyre temperature. Alonso spun on his final fast lap and had no time to cross the line and try again.
They were so nearly joined by the two Red Bulls who scraped out of Q1 in P15 (Ricciardo) and P16 (vettel).
Both Marussias and both Saubers made it through into Q2, although Adrian Sutil limited his further involvement in Qualifying by sending his Sauber into the barriers at the end of Q1. He was P9 at the time and very safe. Esteban Gutierrez continued the theme in Q2 when he crashed in the Brooklands complex. David Coulthard was impressed that Esteban found some unpainted Armco barrier: "He's certainly been creative in the place he's chosen to crash the car..."
Instead of settling for P15 and P16, Marussia went for it in Q2 as well and ended up with P12 and P13. For a split second in the first part of Qualifying - with 1:26 seconds left on the clock - they were P1 and P2 after their perfect timing to move onto slick tyres. With just 4:15 left of Q2 Bianchi was in P1 again, setting purple (fastest) sector times! Although Jules will start from a team best P12, Max has to take a five-place grid penalty which will see him start the race in P18. But that's still ahead of one Williams and two Ferraris!
The final runs of the day in Q3 completely reversed the order. Up until that time, Sergio Perez looked to be the fastest Force India in P3 and Dan Ricciardo was in P4 ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel back in P10. Vettel looked to have missed a trick by going out very late, but then soared to the top of the timesheets on the final run only to be pipped by Nico Rosberg. Similarly Sergio Perez went from a second row start to a fourth row start.
Perez was caught up in his own controversy by telling Spanish TV that he didn't think women were right in F1, that they were better to stay in the kitchen and that he wouldn't want a woman as a team-mate. Although that wasn't a reference to Max Chilton...
Race Director Charlie Whiting took a zero tolerance approach to cars that ran off track in Qualifying and several drivers lost good times as a result. The corners Charlie indicated were Turns 9 (Copse) and Turn 18, the final corner before the finishing line. Thus Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button both saw P1 times removed from the timesheets after Seb ran wide in Copse in Q2 and Jenson had a big slide when he first strapped on the Medium tyre in Q1.