Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel topped this morning’s final wet practice session, although eight drivers- including both Mercedes- chose not to go out to set a time in the conditions.
Behind Vettel, Williams driver Valterri Bottas was the second fastest, the first driver to go out onto the track, fifteen minutes into the session. He was ahead of Force India driver Sergio Perez and Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez, who made up the top five for the session.
In the beginning of the session, the track was doused in heavy rainfall, however the conditions began to improve as the rain stopped, causing more cars to go out onto the track. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had set Ferrari’s first time on a set of wet tyres- a time of 2m 00.812s, but with fifteen minutes remaining, teammate Vettel came out onto the track on a set of intermediates, setting a faster time of 1m 57.351s.
Vettel’s timesheet-topping lap was amongst a last effort by many driver to improve their laps times as the track was clearing up. However, Vettel’s time could not be beaten, and the closest time was a 1m 58.061s made by Bottas in his Williams, 0.710s slower than the Ferrari.
Red Bull was the first team to change from wet tyres to intermediates after the rain was starting to clear up with twenty-four minutes to go in the session, however both drivers- Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat- elected to join the Mercedes’ and McLaren’s, who chose to save their intermediates for qualifying and did not set times on them. The other two drivers who didn’t set a time were Haas’ Romain Grosjean, whose car had lost its telemetry system, and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, whose car faced technical issues.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg will start the 2016 Formula 1 Pirelli Chinese Grand Prix at poll position, after an eventful qualifying session at the Shanghai circuit. However, it was not all good news for Mercedes, as teammate Lewis Hamilton was unable to set a time, after a bout of technical issues with his car.
The German finished half a second up on the second car joining him at the front row tomorrow- Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who drove a tight lap to finish ahead of both of the Ferrari’s in the session. Kimi Raikkonen qualified third on the grid, whilst his teammate Sebastian Vettel qualified fourth.
Williams’ Valterri Bottas finished fifth, ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, followed by Force India driver Sergio Perez, the two Torro Rosso’s, driven by Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen, and then the other Force India driven by Nico Hulkenburg.
Rosberg’s teammate Hamilton- who had already received a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change- was unable to complete a lap in the first Q1 phase of qualifying, due to issues with his Energy Recovery System (ERS).
Q1 also suffered from a red flag after Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein managed to hit the barriers on the main straight of the track, losing control on one of the wet patches of track after the downpour earlier. There was a twenty minute postponement of the session whilst the marshals cleared the area.
Therefore, Wehrlein was eliminated in Q1, along with his teammate Rio Haryanto, alongside Lewis Hamilton, the two Renaults drive by Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, and Esteban Gutierrez for Haas.
There was also an interruption in the Q2 session, causing it to finish a minute early due to the front-left wheel of Nico Hulkenburg coming off his car. Hulkenburg’s time was enough to carry him into Q3, although he was unable to drive in the session. Hulkenburg’s incident also carried misfortune for other drivers, as they were unable to improve their times, sending out Williams’ Felipe Massa, both McLaren’s driven by Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, and the two Sauber’s of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.
Into the beginning of Q3, Rosberg initially set the fastest lap on superset tyres- a time of 1m 36.111s, only for Raikkonen to beat that with a time of 1m 35.972s, which showed Ferrari’s strength and fighting spirit again Mercedes, setting him on provisional pole position. Red Bull’s Ricciardo then set an impressive 1m 36.423s, causing him to settle into third, as Raikkonen’s teammate Vettel sat in the garage, choosing to bide his time and only complete one lap.
Rosberg managed to get himself together for another lap, beating Raikkonen’s lap with a time of 1m 35.402s, loosing Raikkonen the provisional pole. Ricciardo then completed another searing lap of 1m 35.917s, beating Raikkonen to second place. Unfortunately then for Ferrari, Raikkonen made a mistake on his final lap, unable to beat Ricciardo or Rosberg, leaving him qualifying on the second row of the grid, with Vettel making the same mistake at the hairpin, leaving him behind his teammate at a rather disappointing fourth position on grid for tomorrow’s race.