It’s been an exciting start to the F1 2017 season, testing resulting in far closer times with the new regulations altering performance from being purely an engine formula, thus giving the field greater opportunities for innovation. Following this trend, the field has appeared closer during the free practice while sandbagging has been taken to whole new levels with just the 4 engines per season limiting running from teams to this point. No Pascal Wehrlein in qualifying due to slow recovery from his crash at the Race of Champions 9 weeks earlier. Sauber replacing him this weekend with Antonio Giovinazzi, not helpful for Sauber but they are assured he’ll be back in the car and physically fit for the Chinese Grand Prix in just two week’s time. Elsewhere, the Williams mechanics have been furiously working on the suspension of Lance Stroll’s car, he clattered the wall in FP3 when getting on the power too early.
The session is now split into The session is now split into 5 cars removed for Q1, 5 more for Q2 and then the top 10 shootout for Q3, this supporting the smaller field of 20 cars.
With limited running throughout the weekend Jolyon Palmer suffered with poor pace and simply wasn’t able to bring a lap together, this leaving him in last place. A disappointing start to his season but it can all change in the race tomorrow. Next up was Lance Stroll, again disappointed with his performance, the mechanics working hard to repair the car, he wasn’t able to find the speed. We also lose Stoffel Vandoorne, who suffered an oil leak early in the session, his McLaren with seemingly no pace while his team mate Alonso managing a surprisingly respectable 12th place in the session. Kevin Magnussen also failed to make the most of his Haas F1, though it was a surprise to see Antonio Giovinazzi managing 16th place, especially given his limited running and being drafted in last minute to replace Wehrlein.
Bottas takes the pole in Q2 ahead of his team mate Hamilton, followed by the two Ferrari’s This time missing the cut it was the Sauber of Ericsson, now just ahead of his team mate. In front of him was Esteban Ocon in the Force India. In a respectable 13th was the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, still thought to be running on limited power, this demonstrates the excellent potential of the McLaren team, should they be able to maximise its performance. Nico Hulkenberg with a solid job in his Renault and Sergio Perez in 11th, Forsa India no doubt disappointed to see neither of their cars making the top 10 however Sergio felt his car was blocked by Massa and this will be taken up by the race stewards. The big surprise of the session seeing both Torro Rosso’s make it into the top 10 despite a poor showing at Barcelona testing, demonstrating the hard work and progress made by the team over the past few weeks. Finally, a word for Romain Grosjean, despite struggling to find a balance in free practice he came through with a creditable 6th place.
Hamilton takes an early advantage from Vettel, followed by Bottas and Räikkönen, but then the session is soon red flagged due to a crash from Daniel Riccardo. Pushing hard in his Red Bull he appears to lose rear traction and the car gets away from him in an incident very similar to that of Jolyon Palmer and Lance Stroll, these new cars proving that the rear end can easily get away from the driver if there’s not the correct balance on input. Unfortunately, the crash also appears to have interrupted the laps of the rest of the field, with only the first 4 making a full lap. Following the session restarting Grosjean was first on track, putting himself 5th in the current running order before the rest of the field take to the circuit. Bottas putting himself on pole, immediately bettered by Hamilton, Max slotting into 5th while Vettel storms round to put himself on the front row just in front of Bottas. Massa, Sainz and Kvyat rounding off the top 10.