The fastest man in practice, Valtteri Bottas made sure to deliver when it mattered most to narrowly pip Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on Saturday.
It may only be by 0.023s, but the result is just as important: Valtteri Bottas is officially the man to beat in Shanghai come Sunday.
A qualifying session that could’ve easily ended with us lauding Lewis Hamilton for another of his classic last-lap charges, instead, the day belongs to Bottas in a display that reaffirms he has definitely regained his mojo here in 2019.
If this was the Bottas of 2018, no one would’ve been surprised had he wilted in Q3, despite topping the timesheets all weekend. Instead, the Finn raised his game – even as Hamilton couldn’t – and now starts from the top spot for the first time since Sochi in September of last year.
Suffice to say, being able to eke out that extra pace, however small, is very impressive, and has to put this as the second-best qualy performance of his career after his pole in Bahrain 2017. Of course, that performance was followed by a dismal display on race-day, but considering what we’ve already seen from Bottas on a Sunday this year, there’s every reason to expect that this time will be different.
- Not that he’s ever too far from controversy, but once again, Max Verstappen has waded into the centre of it with his remarks after losing out in the queue during Q3. Setting aside the irony of Verstappen bemoaning a lack of driver etiquette, I don’t think he has much of a leg to stand on, as Seb Vettel and the Renaults are under no obligation to stay behind him when their own chances of crossing the line in time are in danger – this is racing, after all.
- Fortnightly Verstappen/Gasly pace watch: Verstappen ahead by 0.841s. Yeah, it’s not getting any better…
- They say all good things come to an end, and unfortunately it was time for Kimi Raikkonen’s Q3 streak on Saturday. Still, 53 races is still pretty impressive – not that he would care, of course.
Race Tyre Strategy Preview, Courtesy of Pirelli
With the meteorological conditions and the amount of tyre degradation that we expect for the race, the theoretical quickest pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli for the Grand Prix are as follows:
- THE QUICKEST ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on soft for 18 laps + 1 stint on hard to the flag
- 2nd QUICKEST ONE-STOPPER: 1 stint on medium for 19 laps + 1 stint on hard to the flag
- 3rd QUICKEST TWO-STOPPER: 2 stints on soft (15+15 laps) + 1 stint on hard to the flag
All three strategies are quite close on paper. With higher temperatures, the life of the soft tyre can be shorter – pushing teams towards an earlier switch to a harder compound or to more than one stop.