It might not have been the opposition he expected, but in the end, Lewis Hamilton overcame it all the same.
Instead of squaring off with Valtteri Bottas and the Ferraris, Hamilton had to contend withs a combination of wet weather, the Red Bull boys, Esteban Ocon and Lance-freaking-Stroll that, well… at least made it interesting.
Taking the pole position record away from Michael Schumacher in a manner that would make the Regenmeister himself proud,
Hamilton delivered the perfect lap in the wet conditions to take pole by a ridiculous 1.148s. Adding to the incredulity was that Bottas finished a further 1.131s adrift – so much for rain levelling the playing field.
That said, the real win for Hamilton wasn’t so much his own time as the incredibly disappointing showing from Ferrari, who stumbled their way to P7 & 8 with a mystifying Q3 performance. Even after Red Bull’s penalties are applied, Sebastian Vettel starts P6, with an uphill battle to retain his championship lead heading into Singapore.
Wet Weather Procedures Leave Room for Improvement
It’s a good thing Q3 delivered such a scintillating finale, because the extra two hour wait for qualifying to resume certainly tested many a fan’s patience.
Yes, some of the delay was unavoidable given the obvious safety concerns, but that shouldn’t stop us from questioning what is an inherently flawed process in the first place.
Between the less-than-optimal wet weather tyres, the intermittent inspection process, and the lack of an effective means to clear standing water, it’s no surprise we had to wait so long for a resumption.
If the race director Charlie Whiting had at his disposal a constantly circulating safety car giving feedback, machinery more akin to NASCAR’s “air titan” than a street sweeper, and tyres less susceptible to aquaplaning, the multiple gaps in the downpour could have been utilised to get through most of, if not all, the early running. Instead, we had to amuse ourselves watching the Mercedes boys play PlayStation – somehow it wasn’t quite the same.
Forget Baku, Saturday was undoubtedly the highlight of Lance Stroll’s young career. A P4 entirely on merit, with a front-row start to come tomorrow. Maybe all that secret testing is paying off after all.
Likewise, Esteban Ocon was stellar, not just for his P5, but for comfortably besting teammate Sergio Perez. I wonder if Perez congratulated him afterwards?
Looks like Romain Grosjean can scratch going to Red Bull off his wish list.
Race Tyre-Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli
With the rain falling and delaying Qualifying by more than two hours, the tyre choice at the start of the GP tomorrow will be free. With the race expected to be dry, the thoretical quickest pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli (on FP1 and FP2 data) are as follows:
THE FASTEST One-stopper: 1 stint on supersoft for 26 laps + 1 stint on soft to the flag
THE 2ND FASTEST One-stopper: 1 stint on soft for 23-25 laps + 1 stint on supersoft to the flag