Qualifiche del GP di Cina non proprio secondo programma per la Mercedes, che domani scatterà dalla seconda fila, con Valtteri Bottas 3° – in quello che sarà il suo 100° GP – e Lewis Hamilton accanto, 4°. Entrambi hanno completato un run in Q1 con le UltraSoft e due run sulle Soft in Q2, mentre nel Q3 hanno usato due set di UltraSoft a testa, con Hamilton che è rientrato ai box prima di passare sulla linea del traguardo. Ecco le dichiarazioni degli uomini Mercedes al termine delle terze qualifiche della stagione, che vedono le Ferrari di Vettel e Raikkonen in prima fila.
Valtteri Bottas: “We came here thinking we’d be fighting for pole position but unfortunately that was out of reach. It was a pretty straightforward qualifying and it felt like I got everything out of the car. Maybe we didn’t get the tyres absolutely perfect for the lap but I don’t think it would have been enough for us to beat the Ferraris. That’s particularly disappointing because the gap to them is quite big. We definitely have work to do but tomorrow is a different day. Today it was really windy and cold, tomorrow it should be nice and sunny. We’ve been looking better on the harder compounds and we will start the race on the Soft, so maybe we can use that to our advantage. It’s a long race ahead and, as we saw last weekend, it will be close. On paper, this track is easier for overtaking than Bahrain, so hopefully tomorrow we can make up for what we lost today”.
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a difficult day. We started the weekend positively in practice, but the car went away from us today, the pace just wasn’t there. Ferrari have definitely improved over the weekend – maybe they didn’t quite show their true pace yesterday – but today they were rapid. We were half a second behind them in qualifying, which is why I boxed on my final lap because I knew I couldn’t match their pace. It’s not going to be easy to beat Kimi and Sebastian tomorrow, they’re the quickest on the straights too, so overtaking will be tough. We start fourth and I’m gonna have to fight from there. It should be hotter tomorrow, which could turn everything on its head. We’ll keep our heads up and keep pushing. The fans here in China have been amazing, I hope they know I’ll do everything to fight for them tomorrow”.
Toto Wolff: “It has been a complex weekend for us so far – on some laps, we have hit the window of tyre performance just right like on the final run in Q2; but more often it has felt like we were chasing that window, especially on the UltraSoft tyre where we have been lacking overall grip. On the other hand, Ferrari have been strong in all conditions and on all tyres and this afternoon’s qualifying results reflect as much. We can see a number of areas of difference on the GPS traces and we need to analyse those carefully. We expect the track temperatures to be much warmer tomorrow and we hope that we have anticipated that change in the right way with the set-up. Ferrari and ourselves will start of the soft tyres, which is a strategic variation to the cars right behind us, and should provide one more ingredient for an interesting race”.
Andrew Shovlin: “Conditions today have been even cooler than yesterday and we really struggled to get the tyres to work well. We saw this more or less straight away in FP3: both drivers were reporting that the grip wasn’t there and it was taking us multiple laps to get down to a time. Conversely it seemed to come easily for some other teams. We made some changes to improve the situation for qualifying however, we always seemed to be a step behind Ferrari and we didn’t have an answer for their performance in the final session. We were able to get through Q2 with the more durable soft tyre and, although this wasn’t initially as easy as we would have hoped, it does mean that we can challenge Ferrari on the same strategy. For tomorrow, we’re expecting clear skies, sunshine and a different situation regarding the track and tyres. This is a circuit where you can overtake and so long as we can stay close to Ferrari, there are plenty of ways that we can put them under pressure. We’re also going to have to keep our eyes on Red Bull who looked very consistent on Friday on the UltraSoft and will be able to take risks on strategy if there is no threat from behind. As always, our goal is to win and we will be doing everything we can to make that happen”.