Another Saturday, another dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton.
Picking up right where he left off in Montreal qualifying, Hamilton was once again a step above the pack in Baku. Finishing 0.434s ahead of Valtteri Bottas, and over a second up on the Ferraris, he made it look as easy as he ever has, and given his struggles during practice, this lap might be even better than his one in Canada.
Prior to qualy, all signs pointed to this being a challenging session for Hamilton. He trailed Bottas by 0.416s in FP3, and seemed to be struggling to switch on his tyres around the low-grip surface – as he had been on Friday and indeed under similar circumstances in Sochi.
To not only find the pace, but do it having to overcome that exact problem in the close to Q3 is the mark of a driver who is at his absolute apex. Regardless of which teams and drivers you like (or dislike), it’s impossible not to appreciate such brilliance.
Moving to Sunday, Hamilton comes in a particularly commanding favourite, given the difficulty in passing around here. For Ferrari that means damage mitigation, with the only real hope coming from a perfectly timed safety car.
Ricciardo’s Downswing Continues
Out-qualified for the fourth-straight time by Max Verstappen, 2017 is increasingly uncharted territory for Daniel Ricciardo.
Sure, the points table may have him 22-points clear of Verstappen, but few would suggest he’s currently the superior driver at Red Bull, especially after crashing out of qualifying yesterday.
Clipping the barrier at turn 6 to take himself out of Q3, Ricciardo’s crash had all the hallmarks of a driver simply pushing too much in his attempt to close the deficit to a teammate who had been faster all weekend, with the Australian admitting as much afterwards.
For a driver who has consistently outperformed his teammates for one-lap pace throughout his career, that’s not a good sign. Cue all Australians having Webber/Vettel flashbacks.
Alonso’s Quote of the Year
In case the link goes down: “Our speed is that slow that they think we are in a slow lap, but no this is our speed, we are in a timed lap.”
A quote as remarkable for its brutal honesty as it is the lack of any malice on Alonso’s part, the hits keep on coming for McLaren-Honda. This is the sort of thing you’d expect to hear at a track day at your local circuit, not in the highest form of motorsport. If – or some would say when – their partnership dissolves, this clip will exhibit A as to why.
Not only did Lance Stroll manage P8 in his Williams, but he out-qualified Felipe Massa. Is the much-maligned Canadian actually *gasp* improving?
With Hamilton brilliant once again in qualy, it’s hard to place Bottas’ performance. Should the Finn be closer? At the very least, comparing him to Nico Rosberg has become excellent comment section fodder.
Pascal Wehrlein gets to add another one to the “hit” column after his Q2 appearance yesterday. The young German really is impossible to figure out.
Race Tyre-Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli
A single pit-stop strategy seems the only one that can ensure a time advantage. Considering the possibility of a reduced delta time between super-soft and soft in race conditions, and the degradation of the super-soft, the pit-stop strategy predicted by Pirelli is as follows:
- One-stopper: super-soft for 12 (in case of high deg) to 22 laps (in case of lower deg) plus one stint on softs to the flag