It’s not a good weekend so far for Red Bull and Toro Rosso with both Daniel Ricciardo and Brendon Hartley crashing out in practice sessions. The two antipodeans were both uninjured but the same couldn’t be said for their cars. Ricciardo’s car luckily had a replaceable nose however Hartley’s was far worse.
The car lost traction coming into a right hander, spun, and impacted a wall. Substantial front and rear damage to the Toro Rosso machine was exacerbated when a lift tow truck was brought in. The sub-frame behind the driver’s cockpit collapsed as the car was being lifted.
Although Ricciardo’s car was out for qualifying, the car’s pace wasn’t where the Perth born driver needed it to be, and he’ll start alongside his team mate Max Verstappen in the third grid row.
It was ultimately, though, Lewis Hamilton that took pole position for Sunday’s race, pipping Valtteri Bottas after the team’s pace in practice had Bottas leading the time chart. However there was very little in the difference, with Hamilton’s time of 1:16.173 not decisively quicker that Bottas’ time of 1:15.213. However both were well under the lap record for the 4.665 kilometer circuit of 1:21.670, set by Raikkonen in 2008.
Bottas himself was barely a tenth quicker than the first of the two Ferraris that will lock out row two. Sebastian Vettel will start in third, his team mate Kimi Raikkonen a full three tenths slower for fourth.
Interestingly it also makes the first three rows a team lockout with Verstappen a miniscule 0.002 quicker than Ricciardo.
A resurgent HAAS team with Kevin Magnussen at the wheel claimed seventh and veteran Fernando Alonso in the McLaren Renault will start in eighth, seven one hundredths quicker than local hero Carlos Sainz. Tenth grid position was claimed by HASS Ferrari’s Romain Grosjean.
It can’t be overlooked that Bottas and Mercedes worked hard to find the extra qualifying pace from Practice one. Bottas and Hamilton both saw a 1:18 against their names for the first practice session to lead the session, however P2, with similar times for the pair Hamilton was ahead by three tenths, with Ricciardo, Verstappen, and Vettel splitting the two.
That continuing run of finding race pace continued in the three qualifying sessions, with Bottas gaining over 1.4 seconds, and Hamilton an extra vital tenth on that.
It’s Hamilton’s first pole since the season opener in Melbourne, Australia, and the supersoft tires he used certainly came to pay when needed. Hamilton said: “I needed this pole,I’ve not had pole for a while. It was very close but I’m very happy. I was trying to go for it in every sector.
“It’s important for me to get back into a good position in qualifying, it’s usually a strength of mine.
And Magnussen was a happy man with P7, saying that felt like pole for the team. With Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull dicing for top honors, the HAAS team is battling the likes of Renault, Force India, and McLaren for fourth place in the constructor’s championship. Magnussen, although delighted with the progress made so far, was also cautious, saying:” But I think our car is strong, and we can be happy with where we are at the moment. We need to keep up the levels, continue to develop, and keep putting stuff on the car.”
If there’s one man that will be grateful to be on circuit it’ll be New Zealander Hartley. Of the crash he said: “Yeah I’m a bit sore. It was a big hit. I can feel it in the neck and head a little bit.It was a big impact – but everyone is working hard to get the car fixed for tomorrow. I’ll be fine, and physically fit to drive the car.
Race 5 of the 2018 F1 season starts at 15.10 local time.