Things we learnt from the qualifying session

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Germany, Hockenheimringde

The qualifying session for the 2018 German Grand Prix saw home hero Sebastian Vettel impropriating the pole position ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and his team-mate Kimi Räikkönen.

1. Sebastian Vettel’s pole position time in yesterday’s qualifying session was 3.151 seconds faster than Nico Rosberg’s time in 2016 which the German secured the pole position for the 2016 German GP with. The huge jump in time is partly down to the steady car development over the years, but mainly down to the tyres. Two years ago, Pirelli supplied the team with much narrower tyres.

2. Red Bull might have been long arguing that its deficit to the field-leading Mercedes and Ferrari teams is only down to its power disadvantage which is out of their control. The theory and this arguing, however, may be misleading. Verstappen’s top speed of 312.2kph was only the 18th highest while his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was dead last through the speed trap, but the Renault works team’s drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz were significantly faster. The German who was the fastest Renault-powered driver through the speed trap clocked a top speed of 319.2kph which was 7.4kph slower than the highest top speed set by Sergio Perez. Renault’s power deficit to the current field-leader Ferrari is evident, but top speeds clearly suggest that Red Bull’s loss on the straights is also down to its aerodynamic design of very high downforce and relatively higher drag.

3. The previous point also applies to McLaren which is placed in the Red Bull-region in terms of top speeds. It also indicates that McLaren car produces high drag compared to the aerodynamically very efficient Ferrari SF71H and it also suggests that the Honda engine which propelled the McLaren in the last three years was not the only blame for the lack of top speed.

4. If the track is dry in the race, the medium compound will be an asset for a one-stop strategy. Today’s race distance will be 67 laps. Ideally, drivers starting on the ultrasoft compound will cover 25 laps on their initial set before changing to the medium compound. The longest distance on the medium was completed by Carlos Sainz who drove 29 laps on the same set of mediums in FP2.

5. Mercedes was the fastest car in the third sector of the Hockenheimring. Valtteri Bottas was 0.202 seconds faster than the second-fastest Kimi Räikkönen. The Mercedes W09 was incredibly stable in the last two medium-speed bends which is also underpinned by the fact that the younger Finn reached the highest speed on the start finish line.

6. McLaren broke the curfew on Friday night to change multiple parts on Stoffel Vandoorne’s car. The extra work was prompted by unknown aerodynamic downforce losses on the Belgian’s car which the team was unable to identify and solve. Despite to the effort, Vandoorne confirmed after qualifying that the issues haven’t been solved yet. “The team has put in a lot of effort to change parts already, but it seems like we’re not really moving forward much.”

7. Ferrari may have stepped up as Formula One’s leading engine manufacturer. Mercedes can seemingly hardly accept that it has lost its enormous power advantage of the last four years, but FIA’s continuous investigations clearly show that Ferrari’s PU complies with the regulations. After yesterday’s qualifying session, FIA’s Jo Bauer checked the maximum MGU-K speed, maximum MGU-K torque, the lap energy release and recovery limits, the maximum MGU-H speed, the ERS energy limits and he found that every power unit complied with the rules.

8. Ferrari’s powerful power unit is not only propelling the works team up to the front, but also its two customers teams. Both Haas drivers and Sauber-Alfa Romeo driver Charles Leclerc made it through into the Q3. It means five Ferrari-powered cars qualified within the top ten.

9. Williams seem to have made progress with their car for this weekend. Sergey Sirotkin qualified 12th, a performance aided, of course, by Lewis Hamilton’s and Daniel Ricciardo’s technical gremlins. However, the small lift in performance compared to Force India, McLaren and Toro Rosso is evident which suggests Williams’ thorough aerodynamic trials on Friday, which included the introduction of a new front wing, may have helped the team.