Morning After: RoBottas stepped up

On a day where Lewis Hamilton looked very much human, it was only fitting the RoBottas stepped up to take his place during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Taking his third pole position of the season, Valtteri Bottas ensured Mercedes’ strong form in practice didn’t go to waste, but more importantly, gave himself the best possible chance of winning a grand prix he could really do with winning.

Win-less since the Austrian GP in July, Bottas has spent the second-half of the season enduring questions over his long-term future with the four-time world champions, and proving he can step up when Hamilton is unable to will at least assuage concerns as a driver who can support the team in future, more competitive, championship battles.

That said, Bottas was only 0.038s quicker than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, and the narrative would certainly be very different if the positions were reversed, but a pole is a pole – and one he will be expected to convert.

Toro Rosso-Renault Spat Goes Nuclear

So much for leaving on good terms.

Fresh off the back of suggestions from Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul that Toro Rosso’s engine problems were their own fault, the Red Bull junior team fired back on Saturday with their own statement, in which they all-but-accused the French supplier of conspiring against them:

“As suggested by Mr Abiteboul, the situation may not be a coincidence, but it is certainly not due to STR’s car.”

Unsurprisingly Abiteboul didn’t take this response well, and was seen angrily confronting Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the paddock, after which the latter released a conciliatory comment in an attempt to defuse tensions.

Besides the immediate concern that Toro Rosso might be left without engines for the Abu Dhabi GP, the real intrigue here is what this means for a relationship with the senior team that has bordered on fractious for several years now. STR have the luxury of moving to a Honda engines next year – a move widely seen as a test-run before Red Bull also switches – but there’s no guarantee the Japanese supplier will have their act together by 2019, yet now Red Bull might not have a choice, if the hardball Abiteboul is playing here is any indication.

Not exactly paragons of righteousness themselves, Red Bull still have a right to be aggrieved, given this is a problem entirely of Abiteboul’s own making. If he hadn’t made such incendiary comments in the first place, this could have all been avoided, but then again, this is a man who has trouble keeping his mouth shut.

Quick Hits

Far from ideal for them, but let’s be honest: there’s nothing wrong with Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo starting from the back of the field, especially at this point in the season

Spectacular laps from Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso both to finish P6 and P7 respectively. Good points are on offer should they keep it up tomorrow

It’s hard to completely condemn Lance Stroll given he missed the entirety of FP3 with a gearbox failure, but surely he can be expected to be closer than a second to his teammate at this point in the season?

Race Tyre-Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli

With the race expected to be dry, the theoretical quickest pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli are as follows:

THE FASTEST One-stopper: 1 stint on supersoft for 26-32 laps + 1 stint on soft to the flag

THE SECONND FASTEST Two-stopper: 2 stints on supersoft (22+22 laps) + 1 stint on soft to the flag