Qualifying analysis: Hamilton rocks at the ‘Ring
A fist in the air signalled a moment of outright joy and hard-fought achievement, as Lewis Hamilton knew without question that he had taken his second pole position in rapid succession, relegating one particular finger by one spot, and showing the Red Bulls that qualifying was clearly not their domain any more. Out of the last 7 races, Mercedes have shown that they are the one-lap kings the last 6 times, having deposed the Milton Keynes team from its high of highs.
The unknown variables of a ‘green’ track as well as a tyre selection only tested recently, threw the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons, as all the drivers had to learn quickly how the car and tyres and track could be used at their optimum. Hamilton had struggled from early doors, but made the choice to start from scratch, which was a bold and in this case, exemplary move, which may pay dividends if he bolts out the gates like he did at Silverstone. He was initially not as quick as his soon-to-be stranded teammate, Rosberg, who along with the team, were royally caught out in Q2, as the track was evolving at such an exponential rate, that the double race winner seemed to be frozen to the spot. Seems that F1 has a way of biting back hard the minute you drop the ball, right, Ross?
But that won’t stop a determined young German pushing his way forward in his “Silver Arrow”, hoping for a welcome win on home soil along with the two he has claimed already this year, as long as he can pass the Red Bulls along the way. Vettel was the one-lap “king” in years gone by, but even he was not able to match the might of the “Silver Arrows,” as no answer could clearly be found via his chariot, or Webber’s for that matter. Ferrari were able to make it into Q3, and have always been strong at Hockenheim, where Alonso has shown great form, having won there on the past two visits.
The ‘Ring could have been a good place for potential improvements, but the Scuderia decided to play that strategic “cat-and-mouse” game, with the Spaniard and his teammate Massa qualifying P7 and P8 on the medium compound tyre, which may be classed as a shrewd move on their part. Both drivers have been electric off the starting blocks, and tomorrow may not be any different, but as long as Turn 1 allows clean battles for position, both could play a part in tomorrow’s proceedings. But the dark horses for tomorrow that could really upset the apple cart are the gold and black missiles from Enstone.
Both Grosjean and Raikkonen were sneaking around in the shadows, showing enough of a glimpse of what was to come to make their presence felt in P5 and P4 respectively. The track temperatures were clearly helping the kind nature of the handling characteristics of the Lotus E21 to ensure their drivers of a potential chance to get on the podium, and then we may even get to see the “Iceman’s new hair cut, which he said he‘d reveal if he got on the podium, when he spoke to Sky Sports F1’s Natalie Pinkham. Well, we all know that the Lotus is kind to its rubber, if the conditions are favourable…
Jenson Button was driving the wheels of his MP4-28, saying that he was pleased to get into Q3 and had gotten he most of the car as possible, opting to not set a time to conserve tyres for a good race strategy from P9, whereas Perez has really had no joy with his car, having suffered a barrage of issues when it came to the handling of his car in FP3, having tried to change the handling too much, causing severe understeer, but expect him to attack hard from the word go. Hopefully with no damage along the way, as in previous races have proven.
Sauber have shown some good consistency, with Hulkenberg getting into the top ten, and showed that he still has the pace to get up there into the points, but Gutierrez is still learning, as he has not been that consistent when it comes to putting together a good lap with it being his rookie season, but there is still time for development, as he did look strong at times. The expectations of the Hinwil-based outfit had not been that high in all honesty, but Nico showed some good pace to pull the C32 up the grid. Force India did not fare as well as they had hoped, as both Di Resta and Sutil had not gotten into Q3 this time around.
Sutil had DRS issues, which he said had cost him the equivalent of half a second, putting the German in P15, which would have possibly put him around the same sort of position on the grid as his Scottish teammate, but at least di Resta had no weight or strategic issues happen this time around, placing P12, but expect both to make a charge up the field, which has been a welcome sight to see, and has helped them stay ahead of McLaren as we fast approach the halfway point of the season.
Toro Rosso’s Ricciardo is showing a great turn in form, as the young Australian is clearly attempting to impress Red Bull top bigwigs to make sure that he has a chance at securing the other 2014 race seat being left by his countryman at the end of the year, qualifying in P6 once again for the second race in a row, and could very well score more points to further his cause. Vergne, however, was not that happy with the car, as he felt uncomfortable with it all weekend, which parlayed into his poor performance in P16. Not the way to impress a future employer, n’est-ce pas? But if it isn’t working when changes are made, then unfortunately the dice are rolled, with the resulting outcome never being favourable.
Williams, who were celebrating their 600th race in the sport, still are lacking some general fundamental baseline performance on the FW35, as their early exit in Q1 made it clear that there has been a bit of a lack of potential, but contrary to events in Canada, when changeable conditions played a part in Bottas’ P3 that time around. Maldonado had a KERS issue setback, as the system on his car filling the garage with smoke, but both drivers were able to make the best of it, but found themselves with a long mountain to climb once again, with the focus is soon to be heading towards the 2014 season, where a new engine supplier will be at hand to help the route back to winning ways.
Pic was again showing his increasing promise in the Caterham CT-03, as the French driver was not even letting a starter motor issue after a visit to the weighbridge slow his progress to 19th, and he made good on out-qualifying his Dutch teammate van der Garde once again, who seemed to have problems with the front tyre temperatures not rising quickly enough, but all together, they proved to have the edge on Marussia. Bianchi again made Chilton look as impressive as always, being a clear second ahead of the Brit in general, with the fact that people are still questioning whether Max was right to come into Formula One this year. Will we find out soon as to his worth behind the wheel? Right now it is difficult to say, but there is room from progress…
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic (c)
Alex Goldschmidt, a man with a view all his own. For the last 25 years, Alex has witnessed the talents of great drivers, such as Senna, Prost, Mansell and Schumacher, and enjoys the intrigue, scandal and confrontations, that occur both on and off the track. Alex also has an interest in the technical side of Formula One, as well as nostalgic moments in history, championing such people as John Surtees and Sir Jackie Stewart. With a view to making his career in motorsport journalism, he looks to provide original content to the masses, and to have great future success in his rapidly progressing career – as a reporter.