Max Verstappen has taken his first pole position of 2022 with championship favourite Charles Leclerc behind. However, pole is for tomorrow’s sprint race, not the full Grand Prix. Numerous red flags meddled with the running, but the wet weather gave 3rd and 4th to Lando Norris and Kevin Magnussen, suprising positions for the midfield drivers. Both Mercedes were unable to break into Q3.
There was a new circumstance to contend with for this sprint weekend, wet weather. Going into the session, the cars had no dry weather running. With the forecast looking sporadic across the weekend, the parc ferme rules could play havoc, as no further changes would be allowed. The track was far drier for qualifying, but still considerably damp.
Q1 – Albon explodes, close calls for elimination
It was only 6 minutes until the first red flag was thrown. The rear of Albon’s Williams was in flames as the brakes overheated. Debris was scattered over the track as there was a small explosion in sector 3. Despite this, Albon was still able to limp back to the pits.
It was only a short break, but the cars were queuing to leave at the end of the pit lane. The track drying meant that changes were consistently happening up and down the grid. After starting on intermediates, the drivers were already comfortable to start running the dry weather tyres. DRS was still not active.
Latifi spun though the Villenueve chicane and bought out double yellows, but not majorly spoiling any times. Eyes fell onto the Mercedes cars, both in the elimination zone on their final laps. The Mercedes had a huge issue with porpoising on the straights. Russell jumped to safety in 11th. Hamilton just scraped out of Q1, placing 15th by 0.004s. Nervy times for the Silver Arrows.
It was a painful session for the local team, Alpha Tauri as both cars eliminated. Bizzarely, Ocon didn’t get out in the last session, eliminating him.
Up front, Ferrari continued their superb start to the weekend, half a second in front of the Red Bulls.
- 16th Tsunoda
- 17th Gasly
- 18th Latifi
- 19th Ocon
- 20th Albon
Q2 – Sainz’s mishap, Mercedes shocker
There was an immediate message from Ferrari, telling Leclerc that they would only have one flying lap before the rain arrived. Unsuprisingly, all cars stormed out straight away in a race against the weather.
Verstappen took the initial fastest time and the cars looked set for another flying lap, but the cameras spun to Sainz in the barriers. Another Red Flag. The Spaniard was sitting in 2nd, but would take no further part in the session. He lost the back end through the final corner and ripped off his front left tyre on the barrier. Overdriving the car when he didn’t necessarily need to.
Several cars were unable to complete another lap and with the rain coming in, Q2 may have been decided with over 10 minutes of the session still remaining. Both Mercedes were below 10th and looked set to have both cars eliminated before Q3, the first time since Japan 2012.
During the red flag session the forecast rain did indeed start falling. No cars took to the grid, finalising the fears of those in the elimination zone. However, the sprint race tomorrow may gift some a second chance.
- 11th Russell
- 12th Schumacher
- 13th Hamilton
- 14th Zhou
- 15th Stroll
Q3- Red flags continue and decide the result
The rain had stopped by the start of the final session, but the cars had to venture out on the intermediate tyre.
Magnussen had an error which bought out another red flag. The Haas spun after hitting a white line, but superb driving, feathering the throttle during the spin, actually kept him out of being beached in the gravel. He was able to reverse the car and make it back into the pits. He would be able to rejoin the session, briefly topping the times.
The track was drying fast, meaning the last laps would be vital.
Leclerc posted the provisional fastest time, just 0.02s ahead of Verstappen, but the cars stayed out to improve their times. Verstappen leapt to first, but before any cars could improve further another red flag was called as Bottas pulled over in sector 3.
There was 3 minutes remaining, enough time for 1 lap.
As the cars stormed out onto the track, it was unclear whether or not the track was any wetter. Leclerc was behind Verstappen and was blocked as the pair came out of the pits.
However, a crash for Norris bought out one final red flag and ended the session. The places were set with no drivers able to improve. Verstappen starts the sprint race on pole, just beating Leclerc. Norris stunned with 3rd, despite his late crash ahead of Magnussen, who will be very happy with 4th, Haas’ best ever qualifying result. Alonso took 5th, edging out Ricciardo and Perez. Bottas kept 8th, while Vettel was the last of the running cars.
Lots of drivers will be unhappy with their positions, notably Sainz and the Mercedes. But, there is still a chance to make amends with the 4th ever sprint race tomorrow.
Featured Image Credit @F1 Official Twitter