The fight for the title between Mercedes and Ferrari lived yesterday a new chapter in which the Italians failed again. In the key moment of Q3, the threat of rain led them to opt for intermediate tires while their rival, and many other teams, chose the opposite, dry tires. And they guessed right. Vettel lost precious time in returning to track to change his tires while Hamilton marked the best time. The German changed his wheels and when he started his fast lap attempt it started to rain. He could not improve the times marked by Hamilton, Bottas and others. He finished ninth and once again complicates his position on the grid to have to climb desperately if he wants to stay in the fight. The most incredible thing of all was the result of the Toro Rosso with Honda engine. The Japanese supplier premiered version with more power and both pilots improved their performance in an extraordinary way. They finished sixth and seventh.
In the first round Hamilton set the pace ahead of Vettel, who was three tenths of his rival, while Bottas, Verstappen and Raikkonen ended up behind. The rain threatened much of the Q1 and, in addition, the session had to be interrupted by an accident suffered by Ericsson. When the batch was resumed, a few drops of rain caused panic among the pilots who were outside the Q1 and in the last moments many left to mark a time. Alonso could not do much and finished the round in second place while Carlos Sainz was twelfth.
The pilots eliminated in Q1 were: Hulkenberg, Sirotkin, Alonso, Vandoorne and Ericsson.
In Q2 all the drivers took the track because at that moment the asphalt was still dry and it was necessary to take advantage of it. The two Mercedes, with Bottas in the lead, dominated the first few minutes with Vettel and Raikkonen next. In the end the rain appeared slightly and nobody could improve the times. Carlos Sainz was one of the injured and was eliminated in the thirteenth place. For his part, Ricciardo suffered a problem in the power unit and could not return to the track. The most surprising of all was the access to the final of the Q3 of Gasly and Hartley, which released specification of the Honda engine with more power.
The drivers eliminated in Q2 were: Leclerc, Magnussen, Sainz, Stroll and Ricciardo.
In the Q3 Ferrari started by choosing the tires badly because he put in intermediate tires when the track was still overtaking. Vettel lost a bit of time and when he returned to the track he made a driving error that took him to ninth place. The Mercedes hit the wheels and dominated the table with Hamilton in front ahead of Bottas. And seconds later appeared, this time yes, the rain. No one could improve and Vettel finished ninth, a very poor place for a driver who intends to fight for the title. Verstappen was third and surprised the result of the Toro Rosso with the Honda engine. Hartley and Gasley were sixth and seventh respectively.
The Japanese Grand Prix will start on Sunday at 07:00 h (Spanish time).
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.760s –
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m28.059s + 0.299s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull / Renault 1m29.057s + 1.297s
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m29.521s + 1.761s
5 Romain Grosjean Haas / Ferrari 1m29.761s + 2.001s
6 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso / Honda 1m30.023s + 2.263s
7 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso / Honda 1m30.093s + 2.333s
8 Esteban Ocon Force India / Mercedes 1m30.126s + 2.366s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m32.192s + 4.432s
10 Sergio Perez Force India / Mercedes 1m37.229s + 9.469s
11 Charles Leclerc Sauber / Ferrari 1m29.864s + 2.104s
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas / Ferrari 1m30.226s + 2.466s
13 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m30.490s + 2.730s
14 Lance Stroll Williams / Mercedes 1m30.714s + 2.954s
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull / Renault – –
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.361s + 2.601s
17 Sergey Sirotkin Williams / Mercedes 1m30.372s + 2.612s
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren / Renault 1m30.573s + 2.813s
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren / Renault 1m31.041s + 3.281s
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber / Ferrari 1m31.213s + 3.453s