QUAL­I­FY­ING

Autosport (UK) - - RACE CENTRE - EDD STRAW

“I DO NOT THINK POLE PO­SI­TION WAS WITHIN OUR REACH” AR­RIV­ABENE

SOME­TIMES IT’S THE HOPE THAT GETS YOU. HAV­ING BEEN out­classed by Mercedes through­out prac­tice and qual­i­fy­ing, Fer­rari thought it was seiz­ing an op­por­tu­nity by send­ing both Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Kimi Raikko­nen out on in­ter­me­di­ate tyres at the start of Q3. The gam­bit back­fired spec­tac­u­larly, con­tribut­ing to Vet­tel end­ing up ninth fastest, while Raikko­nen could only sal­vage fourth. Up front, for the se­cond con­sec­u­tive race, it was a Mercedes front-row lock­out.

The rain did come, but too late to help Fer­rari. In fact, it hin­dered Vet­tel, be­cause while Raikko­nen at least sal­vaged fourth place, which he ad­mit­ted should have been third but for a small mis­take at the en­try to Spoon Curve, Vet­tel ran off the road at the same cor­ner and didn’t set a se­ri­ous dry lap time thanks to the rain set­ting in.

Lewis Hamil­ton, mean­while, calmly nailed a lap of 1m27.760s to earn his 80th F1 pole po­si­tion by 0.299s ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valt­teri Bot­tas.

“From the way things were done, I do not think that pole po­si­tion was within our reach, but what happened to­day is un­ac­cept­able,” said Fer­rari team prin­ci­pal Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene. “I am very an­gry – it is not the first time that these mis­takes have oc­curred.”

To add in­sult to Fer­rari’s in­jury, both Mercedes drivers set their fastest Q2 times on soft rub­ber that gave them a more favourable race strat­egy, while

Vet­tel and fourth-placed

Raikko­nen used su­per­softs.

While Hamil­ton and Bot­tas were happy to talk up the de­ci­sion-mak­ing in the Mercedes team, Red Bull had rea­son to feel am­biva­lent about the ses­sion. Max

Ver­stap­pen grabbed third place, al­beit 1.297s off pole, to put him­self ahead of both Fer­raris, but Daniel Ric­cia­rdo was

15th af­ter a throt­tle-ac­tu­a­tor fail­ure struck on his Q2 out-lap.

In the bat­tle for ‘Class B’ hon­ours, Ro­main Gros­jean was fifth for Haas, 0.262s faster than Toro Rosso’s Bren­don Hart­ley. Gros­jean’s great achieve­ment was to fol­low the Mercedes drivers’ ex­am­ple, reach­ing the top 10 us­ing soft rub­ber in Q2, mak­ing that his tyre for the race start.

Hart­ley was a ca­reer-best sixth us­ing the ‘Spec 3’ Honda en­gine. He shaded team-mate Pierre Gasly, who said he was not able to run with as ag­gres­sive an en­gine set­ting as Hart­ley be­cause of a cal­i­bra­tion prob­lem.

Este­ban Ocon was eighth in the lead Rac­ing Point Force In­dia, but a three-place grid penalty for not slow­ing down enough for a red flag in FP3 dropped him be­hind Vet­tel, team-mate Ser­gio Perez and the Sauber of Charles Le­clerc.

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