Max Verstappen capped an exciting qualifying with his third consecutive pole position. It marked the first time a Red Bull driver has had three pole positions in a row since 2013. This was only one of the many incredible moments throughout qualifying today. Fernando Alonso looked strong throughout qualifying until an unfortunate break on his final turn in Q2 where he got caught up in the traffic of the late starters. This incident ultimately led to a three-place grid for Sebastian Vettel; he will now start the race in P11. Ferrari failed to get both drivers into Q3 after they risked using the medium compound tires during both runs in Q2. To top it all off, the story of the day was Lando Norris.
Norris Hundredths of a Second Off Pole Position
Lando Norris had the best qualifying day of his career. He finished second behind Verstappen in Q1 by one tenth of a second. In Q2, he finished a respectable P3 and in the final session, he pulled out the best qualifying lap of his career. He pushed his MCL35M to the limit putting in a 1:03.768, which was 0.048 seconds from his first career pole position. This will be the first time he has qualified on the front row in F1.
Throughout the day, Norris showed his MCL35M could keep pace with the championship leading RB16B. He even outclassed the Mercedes works team by finishing ahead of them in each of the sessions. During the final session, he was on average 5 kph (kilometers per hour) quicker than the Mercedes on the straights, where they normally excel.
During the post qualifying interview, both the crowd and Norris seemed to be delighted with his performance. As he was walking up to the microphone, you could hear an audible cheer by the crowd and even as the interviewer was congratulating Norris on his performance his tone was excited. As the interview was coming to a close Norris joked that “everyone in orange supporting McLaren, not Max.”
Russell is One Step Closer to Making Good on his Promise
As George Russell’s car was being brought into the garage during last week’s race, he said on team radio “no need to apologise, we’re in this together. We go again next week – we’ll get points next week.” He made big strides towards making good on that promise. Russell got into Q3 for the first time in his stint with Williams. In fact, that was only the second time since 2017 that Williams have reached Q3. He managed to get into Q3 with the medium compound tires. The same set of tires that both Ferrari’s could not get into Q3 with. He finished qualifying in P9 and will now start the race in P8 due to the grid place penalty by Vettel. After the race, he did a post qualifying interview for Williams Racing social media and stated that “points have got to be a minimum.” Will Russell deliver on both promises?
Mercedes Struggles Continue
Mercedes started the day with positive news when they announced a 2-year contract extension with Lewis Hamilton, which will put him in the seat until 2023. During qualifying, the positive vibes quickly evaporated. Both drivers were constantly struggling to keep pace with Red Bull and Max Verstappen. They even lagged behind the team they supply their engine to. At the end of the day, they finished P4 and P5 respectively. It is the first time in 70 GP races that Mercedes have failed to qualify in the top three during a dry qualifying session. It will be an uphill climb to Verstappen during tomorrow’s race. They will have to contend with the other Red Bull driver Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Lando Norris. Lewis Hamilton was quite dejected after qualifying. During a post qualifying interview, Hamilton was asked whether taking on Verstappen for a victory was out of the question and he answered: “I would say so. On pure pace, it’s definitely out of the question.”