“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.