2018 Japanese Grand Prix Qualifying - 5 Talking Points
Ferrari - not again!
During the all-important qualifying session, Ferrari just found yet another way to throw their advantage away.
When the two red cars queued up at the end of pit exit for the lights to turn green, to everyone's shock, they were shod with intermediate tires in an almost bone-dry track.
When the rain came down towards the end of Q2, the circuit looked wet. But minutes before the lights turned green for the all-important Q3, we could see the rainbow and the sun shone bright, and dry patches emerged all around the tracks.
Except for one team, other teams realized the track is best for the prime super soft, and promptly set their best time of qualifying session on the first run. The two Ferraris meantime were scurrying back to the pits for a new set of super soft. By the time the two Ferraris came out for their flying lap on super soft, the rain came again, and both the cars were all over the place.
Ferrari committed more comical errors towards the end of the session, when they pulled Sebastian Vettel into the garage to take out some fuel for another run, losing some valuable time again, and it’s game over before he went out.
The Q3 session, in nutshell, exemplified Ferrari’s championship campaign in 2018.
As if they are preparing Charles LeClerc for his Ferrari stint, Sauber made a strategic error during Q2, which prevented him from moving to the final part of qualifying. The Swiss team wanted to give LeClerc one run on the super soft, and they held him back for the track to further evolve but caught out by the sudden downpour.
Before he completed his out-lap, the rain was there, and he spun as the track became treacherous. Rightly then, Sauber is called as the Junior Ferrari team!
Ocon’s Red Flag Offense; Vettel moves one place up in Starting Grid
When Hulkenberg crashed out towards the end of FP3, the session was red flagged. Ocon did slow down but the system beeped to inform him that he’s too slow. Following this, he picked up some pace, which exceeded the speed limits to be followed under the red flag.
After the reviewing the footage, GPS and telemetry data the stewards decided to hand a three-place demotion, pushing the French man to 11th place on the grid. This has promoted Sebastian Vettel to eight, Perez to ninth, and Leclerc to tenth.
Toro Rosso’s Taunt
Toro Rosso had its best qualifying session in 2018, at a circuit where a year ago Fernando Alonso had infamously called out the Honda engine powering his McLaren as “GP2 engine”. Honda provided a much needed new spec power unit boost, which was expected to give definite horsepower advantage worthy of half a second. Expectedly both the cars made it to Q3 to eventually qualify 6th and 7th in the grid.
Toro Rosso, though, did not forget the taunts made against them during their relationship with McLaren. Remembering Alonso’s radio message “now we can fight” after his P5 finish, the Toro Rosso’s Twitter handle famously proclaimed this. Gasly did this when he finished P4 at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Daniel’s Ricciardo wretched luck in Qualifying
Before Daniel Ricciardo could start his proper Q2 run, he had to limp back to pits with visible flames from his RB’s exhaust, ending his qualifying session.
The Australian’s recent record now stands at five failures to take part in Q3 in the last seven races, and ironically, it has happened only thrice since he joined the Red Bull in 2014. With him taking his quota of power units, a new PU change may demote him to the back of the grid.
It’s understandable when he says “I just can’t catch a break”.