Qualifying Analysis: Hamilton can’t catch a break, Rosberg picks up the pieces and F1’s stars of the future shine
Whilst Lewis Hamilton’s early shunt effectively decided pole, Hockenheim still delivered quite the show during qualifying for Sunday’s German Grand Prix, as Nico Rosberg set himself up for a maiden win at home. Dan Paddock runs you through the talking points from qualifying for the German Grand Prix.
Brake failure for Hamilton decides qualifying, but leaves us with plenty to look forward to come race day
A slight screech of tyres followed quickly by a large bang. That was how Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying session ended on Saturday, with his Mercedes stuffed into the tyre barrier at the Sachskurve after a sudden brake failure.
Fortunately, a winded Lewis escaped unhurt, aside from a pair of bruised knees. The 2008 champion must be thinking to himself ‘what do I need to do to get a b****y brake – shameless pun – on a Saturday’. For the third race weekend in a row he has had something spoil his session and leave him stranded down the grid, if he even makes the grid at all on Sunday. In Austria it was a spin. Last time out at Silverstone he opted against a final run. While on Saturday it was an exploding brake disc courtesy of Brembo. Better luck next time aye…
One small mercy, with Mercedes insistent on changing Lewis’ brakes ahead of the race the 2008 champion could well start from the pitlane. Considering his lightning starts in Austria and at home in Britain, watching Hamilton tear his way through the field should make for interesting viewing whilst Robserg almost inevitably wanders into the distance out front.
It is certainly the German’s race to lose now, and as good as Valtteri Bottas looks in the Williams – more on him later – it is difficult to see the Finn really trumping Rosberg in a straight fight unless Mercedes’ reliability gremlins strike.
With Nico out front, Hamilton simply has to play damage limitation on Sunday. After slashing Rosberg’s lead in the drivers’ championship down to just four points with his win at home, it would be a shame to see the advantage balloon a race later. Optimistically, with the pace of the Merc and Felipe Massa’s almost relentless bad luck, Lewis could finish on the podium tomorrow.
Valtteri Bottas steps up to the mark once again for Williams
It says a great deal about the meteoric rise of Valtteri Bottas this season that performances like his front row slot for tomorrow’s German Grand Prix now do not really come as a great surprise. Right from Q1 Bottas looked good, despite again losing his Friday morning running. Once Hamilton crashed out a spot on the front row was Williams’ for the taking, and it seemed almost inevitable that the young Finn would be the one to seize upon the opportunity, despite the close presence of his team-mate Felipe Massa.
When it came down to it, Bottas stitched a lap together, not the Brazilian, to earn the right to start alongside Rosberg on the front row by three tenths from his team-mate. Truth be told the Finn probably pushed the Mercedes man closer than he would have liked for pole.
With Hamilton mired down at the back, Williams have a fantastic opportunity to get both cars on the podium for the first time since Monaco in 2005. Anything else would surely count as a disappointment. With Mercedes’ reliability still circumspect, they could even be in a position to win come Sunday. Now that would be something special.
F1’s rookies continue to impress…
Kevin Magnussen stunned everyone with his drive in Australia, quickly heralded as the new Lewis Hamilton, only to then be found wanting as McLaren’s early season woes became evident in China and Bahrain.
With McLaren now making steady progress and pushing its development cycle, the Dane has come into his own in recent races, notching up a run of four consecutive points finishes since Monaco, when he would have finished higher if not for a late attack by Kimi Raikkonen.
Fourth on the grid, ahead of both the Red Bull’s, much to the surprise of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, is a further sign of the steady progress that Magnussen has made since his spectacular debut back in March.
He has a perfect platform to add to his points tally on Sunday, he will just hope to prove to be less easy to pass than he was in Silverstone. It will not be easy though, with the two Red Bulls and Fernando Alonso all ready to pounce. McLaren would surely be pleased to mix it with their old rivals after a year and a half in the wilderness.
Daniil Kvyat is another rookie delivering the goods time and time again this season. A popular recipient of praise from this very series since the start if 2014 the Russian continued his early season form with his … points finish of the year at Silverstone.
Eighth on the grid in Hockeheim, ahead of his Toro Rosso team-mate and yardstick Jean-Eric Vergne again, the 20-year-old is living up to the plaudits he received for his capture of last year’s GP3 crown.
However, with some quick cars behind him, and his best tyres all gone, holding onto points come Sunday could be tricky.
And show up the ageing stars of yesteryear
Silverstone proved to be something of a renaissance weekend for Jenson Button, with the Brit storming to a popular third place during qualifying, before narrowly missing out on a podium spot to Daniel Ricciardo.
Two weeks later, and you would be forgiven for thinking it was 2013 all over again for the ex-champion. Struggling with a car that simply would not work to his liking, Button was pipped to a place in the final shootout by former team-mate Sergio Perez in the dying seconds of the session.
His drive over the British Grand Prix rolled back the years, but if he seriously wants to be around at McLaren for Honda’s return in 2015 he will not want to be finding himself down in 11th on the grid, seven spots back from his team-mate too often from here until the end of the season.
JB takes the benefit of a free tyre choice into the race on Sunday, and should certainly consider himself in for a chance of points. Kvyat and the two Force Indias could all be viable targets.
The Briton was not the only former-champion knocked out in Q2 though, with Ferrari’s luckless Kimi Raikkonen another victim of the system, mired down in 12th, four tenths shy of his team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Raikkonen admitted quite honestly during the British Grand Prix weekend that if he were ever to not enjoy Formula 1 at any point he would simply walk away there and then, even if was midseason. You have to wonder what the 2007 champion finds enjoyable about qualifying 12th and being battered by his team-mate week in week out? Kimi evidently has not become a bad driver overnight, but his problems with the front end of the Ferrari seem to be no closer to being solved than they were in Australia. Realistically, will he ever get to grips with the F14 T?
Expect Ferrari to start him on an alternate strategy on Sunday, running on the soft tyres during the opening stint. If he keeps it clean we could well see the Finn record his best finish of the year.
The two Frenchman who deserve better
Some credit should go to Jules Bianchi and Romain Grosjean on Saturday after the two Frenchman hauled their cars to places they do not belong, and not for the first time in 2014.
Bianchi, who I lavished with praise after qualifying for the British Grand Prix might not have matched the heady heights of 12th on the grid in Germany, but he did out qualify a Lotus on raw pace alone on Saturday. Pastor Maldonado’s season has been downright miserable, but to be outqualified by a Marussia on pace alone must surely rank as a low point for the one-time race winner.
While the result is indicative of the Venezuelan’s season, it also says all you need to know about Bianchi’s year so far. The Frenchman has been consistently excellent, mixing his car with those it has no right to stand amongst. The fact he was eight tenths faster than Kamui Kobayashi and his own team-mate is further proof that the guy is quite the talent.
It will be interesting to see how long he can keep Maldonado behind him in the early laps.
A pause also to applaud Grosjean’s efforts as he hustled the FRICless E22 into Q2. The car looked awful to drive on track, yet the Frenchman kept his mouth closed and went about his business in the way we have come to expect from him. After his form at the end of 2013 a 15th place in qualifying is not much to get excited about. But as long as he keeps quietly getting on with his increasingly frustrating job at Lotus with decorum, his stock will only continue to rise.
Points are probably a long shot come Sunday, but if one of the Lotus cars is going to capitalise on an opportunity you would expect it to be the Frenchman.
Images courtesy of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS, Williams F1 Team, McLaren Mercedes, Scuderia Ferrari and Marussia F1 Team
Dan Paddock is an FIA accredited freelance motorsport and Formula 1 journalist and the recently appointed Grand Prix Editor of Richland F1. Dan joined the site in July of last year as a Staff Writer, fresh off the back of completing a master’s degree in journalism. He has since gone on to represent Richland F1 at the 2014 British Grand Prix, his debut in the Formula 1 paddock. Aside from Richland F1, Dan also writes for Rumble Strip News, as well as maintaing his own modest blog.