Chinese Grand Prix: Qualifying Recap

Taking the pole for the Chinese Grand Prix was Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The four-time champion put down a lap of 1:31.095 to win the pole by just .087 of a second over his teammate, Kimi Räikkönen. The track record lap, which bested the previous record of 1:31.678 by .583 of a second set last year in Q3 by Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, gave Ferrari a front-row lockout for the second straight race. This was Vettel’s 52nd career Formula One pole, his second of the season and his fourth at Shanghai. Räikkönen, meanwhile, has qualified second in every race this season.

Scuderia Ferrari:

Just one week after the Bahrain lock-out, Scuderia Ferrari once again qualified both cars on the front row as Seb Vettel beat Kimi Raikkonen by a mere 0.087 seconds in the qualifying session for the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix. This result marks pole number 215 for the team, the 7th for Sebastian in Ferrari colours. In very different weather conditions from the ones encountered at Sakhir last weekend, the SF71Hs delivered a strong performance with both the Ultrasoft and the Soft compound, the latter being the one with which both drivers start on tomorrow.

“It’s been a great result and I am really happy for the team”, said Seb. “Today the car was amazing and it was great fighting for the front row with both cars on our own. It was very windy and not easy to get the right feeling. However, when the car is quick and works, you get a lot of confidence and that helps. We didn’t expect to be so strong compared to our competition. We made some small changes today on our car, but it was pretty good yesterday already. I made some mistakes during my first lap in turn three and six, where I had oversteer. The tires here are very sensitive, so I knew that if I kept it clean, then the final part of the lap would be better. I didn’t know what the others were doing, but I was quite sure about getting the pole because I think I was one of the last cars and so could profit from track evolution. Tomorrow the weather should be sunny, which makes the asphalt hotter. We’ll see how it works, but I think we’ll be very close”.

Kimi added: “We have been pretty happy with the way things have been so far this weekend. Qualifying today was pretty close; we had two good laps, but unfortunately I lost some speed in the last sector and couldn’t improve. Obviously I wanted more, but tomorrow is another day. We ‘ll start the race with the Soft tires and our rivals start with the same compound: that will be slightly different compared to the other cars and I think it will be better like this. We did what we think is the best for us and is supposed to give us the best result in the end. Our aim is to win, first of all we need to do a good job tomorrow and take the most out of it. I think we have been ok in all the races so far; we have been extracting more out of the car and learning more about it. We have been pretty consistent and happy with things, obviously we need to improve here and there but that’s a normal and never ending process”.

HaasF1 Team:

Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen qualified 10th and 11th, respectively, for the Chinese Grand Prix Sunday at Shanghai International Circuit.

Grosjean set the fifth-fastest time in Q1 with a lap of 1:33.238 around the 5.451-kilometer (3.387-mile), 16-turn track. Magnussen was seventh quickest with a lap of 1:33.359. Only the top-15 drivers move on to Q2.

In Q2, Grosjean earned the sixth-fastest time with a lap of 1:32.524 to advance to Q3. Magnussen qualified 11th with a time of 1:32.986, just missing the top-10 cutoff to get into Q3 by a scant .016 of a second.

Tire choice during qualifying varied between the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire and the Purple ultrasoft tire. Grosjean ran the ultrasoft exclusively in Q1 and Q2. He switched to the soft for his first run in Q3, but returned to the ultrasoft to set his fast lap. Magnussen used the soft tire for his first run in Q1 before transitioning to the ultrasoft to set his quick time. He stayed on the ultrasoft in Q2.

The tire choices were strategic for both qualifying and the race, as the top-10 drivers must start the race on the tires they used to qualify. Those outside the top-10 can start the race on a new set of tires of their choosing. With the Purple ultrasoft good for only a handful of quick laps before a drastic performance drop due to degradation, the Yellow soft is the preferred tire, as it strikes a balance between performance and durability. Grosjean will start the Chinese Grand Prix on the same set of ultrasofts he used to qualify, while Magnussen can bolt on a new set of softs for the race.

Before Grosjean, Magnussen and the rest of their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, they had one final practice (FP3) to dial in their racecars for a quick lap around the track.

Magnussen performed a 19-lap stint on the Purple ultrasoft tire to start and then followed it up with a six-lap drive on Yellow softs. It was on the softs that Magnussen earned his quick time – a 1:34.329 on his 22nd lap that put him sixth overall. Grosjean, on the other hand, was limited to just six laps. He ran only on ultrasofts after a brake-by-wire issue created an overheating problem with his rear brakes. Grosjean could only muster a best time of 1:35.756, earned on his fourth tour, which placed him 20th on the speed chart.

Alfa Romeo SauberF1:

The qualifying session ahead of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix was made more complicated by unfavourable weather and track conditions, with wind and low temperatures presenting an added challenge to teams driving at the Shanghai International Circuit. The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team finished qualifying with Charles Leclerc in P19 and Marcus Ericsson in P20. Although it was not possible to maximise the cars’ performance on the ultrasoft tyres during qualifying, the team remains confident for tomorrow’s race based on the strong pace achieved by both drivers during the long-runs completed on Friday.

Marcus Ericsson; “It was not the best qualifying session for me. We knew that it would be difficult to get into Q2 because we have been struggling quite a bit on the ultrasoft tyres this weekend. My last lap was looking quite good until I locked up towards the end and had to lift off. We had a good race pace during the two practice sessions yesterday, which is encouraging for tomorrow’s race. I look forward to getting into the fight, and will do the best job possible.”

Charles Leclerc; “Overall, I am quite happy with my day. Even though a small error on my fast lap cost me some time, it was the first qualifying this year in which I am satisfied with my own performance. So far, our race pace has been better than our qualifying pace this weekend, so it will be interesting to see what is possible during tomorrow’s race.”


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