The mathematical equations have become simple with two races to left in the season: if Rosberg wins the Brazilian Grand Prix, he’s becoming the third German champion of F1 history. Hamilton needs a win and luck for his fourth title. Let’s see who did best in Qualifying.
There’s an interesting theory about Hamilton: some people claim that Lewis recognized how strong Rosberg has gotten way too late into the season. Before 2016, his natural talent was enough to edge out the hard working teammate, but now he needed to up his game. And he did, spending more time in preparation and with the engineers. But the time is running out.
The reigning champion started into the weekend with the quickest time, while Nico Rosberg ended up being third behind Verstappen. A quick Red Bull is just what Hamilton needs, given that Verstappen and Ricciardo put some pressure on Rosberg, like they did in Mexico.
After Ricciardo in fourth, the Mercedes customers Force India and Williams managed to beat Ferrari on single lap pace. It has become a pattern for Ferrari: if the long run speed is fine, the single lap speed isn’t there. A lack of understanding for the Pirelli tires and a car that has a narrow operating window put them in this position. Hamilton will be hoping for Ferrari to sort out their issues - every car closer to Rosberg can give his hopes a boost.
Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso had a solid start into what would be a tough weekend for McLaren. The circuit has a narrow infield that could favor the McLaren chassis, but the third full throttle sector shows the Honda powertrain’s weakness. P13 and P14 is an appropriate result.
Even further down the order, two test drivers got a bit of seat time: Sergei Sirotkin did 10 laps in the Renault, and Ferrari academy member Charles Leclerc took the Haas F1 for a spin. They were slower than the usual drivers but kept their cars in one piece, which is something.
— Formula 1 (@F1) 11. November 2016
It looked like Red Bull was right on Mercedes’ heal, but that impression changed in FP2: Hamilton and Rosberg were neck-and-neck with 0.030 of a second separating them. And behind them? Well, out of nowhere Williams went third and fourth. The long run pace proves that other factors, such as low fuel load, might have benefited the team though.
Ferrari solved the majority of their setup issues and was about a tenth behind Red Bull now. Interestingly, the long run pace is pretty much equal as well, with Mercedes still ahead by a solid margin.
— Majd Alonso ♥ (@Vamos_Alonso) 11. November 2016
The most entertaining scenes of the session were a gift from McLaren-Honda: as the car broke down in the infield of Interlagos, Alonso was left stranded with 30 minutes on the clock. Instead of taking a sun bath like last year when the exact same thing happened to him, he quickly took a cameraman crash-course to benefit his CV. Turns out he’s rubbish at operating a remote camera, so he kicked some rocks instead. Alonso is becoming the new carefree Kimi.
— Formula 1 (@F1) 11. November 2016
Friday was hot and dry. On Saturday, the forecast was different: clouds blocked the sun from heating up the tarmac, and the occasional drizzle was to be observed. All the water vaporized and in the end just cooled down the track, but the weather could worsen on Sunday and gift us with a rain race.
In the dry, Sauber had one of their worst performances of the year. Both drivers couldn’t match the Manors, despite most of the track layout favoring the Sauber. At Manor, Wehrlein slightly outpaced Ocon, showing that he’d deserve a promotion to a bigger team as well.
Jenson Button sometimes seems like he’s already busier planning his 2017 schedule than maxing out an F1 car when it matters. He didn’t make it through Q1 and ended in P17, even behind the Renault of Palmer. Meanwhile Alonso was 11th and 6 tenths quicker.
And Alonso’s journey didn’t stop there: he made it into Q3 with a fabulous lap. The same could not be said about Williams. Both Bottas and Massa were kicked out of the top 10 and proved that Williams has no business fighting for podiums. Toro Rosso is continuing to suffer from their year-old weak engines and is probably counting the days until they can start over next year with a fresh batch of Renault engines. If it rains, I’d keep out an eye for Sainz and Kvyat though.
Gutierrez once again was outpaced by Grosjean, showing why he lost the cockpit to Magnussen (who himself was beaten by Palmer today). Actually, Grosjean thoroughly impressed in the last session by putting the Haas into seventh and being crowned “best of the rest”, beating the likes of Force India and Alonso.
But now, here are the results that really matter. Lewis Hamilton was quickest in Q1 and Q2, but Rosberg narrowed the gap down. In the final session, Hamilton’s first run was close to excellent, while Rosberg didn’t make it stick. Was that it? Remarkably, Rosberg kept cool and went about as fast as Hamilton in his second try. The onboard cameras showed that it was an unspectacular, clean drive. Still, in the end Hamilton had a better last sector and saved an advantage of one tenth across the line. It’s his 60th pole and the best result he could hope for. How he’ll have to pray for a Ferrari or Red Bull to overtake Rosberg.
In the second row, Kimi Räikkönen will start alongside Max Verstappen. Both drivers had a couple of run-ins with each other, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it clean. And behind them Ricciardo and Vettel will get a chance to take revenge for whatever happened in Mexico.
So here’s the quick summary: Brazil, possible rain, a championship decision. All the ingredients are there for a fantastic race, so make sure to tune in tomorrow.
— Formula 1 (@F1) 12. November 2016