F1 testing: Ricciardo breaks lap record; Renault nears 200 laps

Daniel Ricciardo lowered the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya’s unofficial lap record during Wednesday’s testing session, setting a time of 1:18.047s on the new hypersoft tyre.

The Australian’s lap was more than three tenths faster than the previous record set by Felipe Massa during testing in 2008, and nearly six tenths below last year’s fastest testing time, set by Kimi Räikkönen.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were close behind the Red Bull. Their best flying laps, both set on the ultrasoft tyre, were four and five tenths adrift of Ricciardo respectively, but still comfortably within the 1:18s.

These times came as teams focused on performance runs during the morning session, the result being that many of Wednesday’s laps were among the quickest of 2018 testing so far.

Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG F1

Fourth fastest was Sebastian Vettel. The German was given an unexpected extra session on Wednesday morning as teammate Kimi Räikkönen was unwell, but opted to concentrate on long runs rather than challenge Red Bull and Mercedes on the hypersoft—however, he did manage to lap within a second of third-placed Bottas despite running on the soft compound tyre at the time.

Three tenths behind Vettel came Brendon Hartley and Fernando Alonso, both setting closely-matched 1:19.8s on the ultrasofts. Alonso had looked set to enjoy McLaren’s first trouble-free day of testing so far when he ran among the pacesetters during the morning and notched up 47 laps early on.

However, an oil leak before midday resulted in an engine change that cost Alonso over six hours of track time—the Spaniard was only able to fit in another 15 minutes of running at the end of the day, bringing his Wednesday lap count up to 57.

Steven Tee/LAT Images/Pirelli Media

Carlos Sainz was seventh fastest, being the first driver above 1:20s and the only one of the day to set his time on the medium tyre.

Although Sainz’s best lap was ultimately two seconds off Ricciardo’s benchmark, he did contribute to Renault leading the way in terms of mileage on Wednesday. The Spaniard logged 88 rounds of the Barcelona track during his morning in the RS18, before teammate Nico Hülkenberg added a further 102 after lunch.

Their combined 190 laps puts Renault second so far in the number of testing laps completed per team, with 602 to Mercedes’s 658.

Renault Sport F1 Team

Romain Grosjean was eighth-fastest on a 1:20.237s. Haas ended the session with the second-lowest lap total when an oil leak on Grosjean’s car limited him to 78 laps across the day.

Räikkönen, who recovered to run in the afternoon, and Hülkenberg, were the lowest-placed manufacturer drivers in ninth and eleventh respectively, split by the Williams of Lance Stroll.

Force India, Sauber and Williams occupied the bottom spaces on the leaderboard with Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Sergey Sirotkin.

But although the three midfield teams were an average of three seconds off Red Bull’s pace, they were all much higher on the day’s lap charts. Leclerc’s 160 and Ocon’s 130 were beaten only by Ricciardo in terms of laps done by an individual driver, while Stroll and Sirotkin recorded 143 for Williams between them.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

F1 testing: McLaren troubles continue into second week

McLaren suffered another day of limited mileage on Tuesday as F1 testing resumed in Barcelona, finishing the day bottom of the lap charts and with the second-slowest time.

After minor mechanical faults cost the team valuable track time last week, McLaren was left again on the back foot when Stoffel Vandoorne’s MCL33 broke down twice in the morning with a pair of battery failures shutting down his Renault engine.

And although McLaren seemed to resolve those issues in time for the afternoon, Vandoorne was not out for long before this session was also cut short—this time, owing to a hydraulics problem.

In total, Vandoorne completed just 38 laps across the whole of Tuesday, and finished last-but-one on the timesheets with a best of 1:21.946s.

Ferrari Media

While McLaren struggled, their rivals took advantage of the prime conditions in Barcelona to embark on the long run programmes traditionally seen in the second week.

Sebastian Vettel recorded the most individual mileage of the day with 171 laps, as well as ending the day fastest by two tenths from Valtteri Bottas.

However, Mercedes ran the furthest of any team on Tuesday, surpassing Ferrari by six laps by combining Bottas’s 86 laps in the morning with Lewis Hamilton’s afternoon total of 91.

Max Verstappen—who split Bottas and Hamilton to be third fastest—lost running in the final hour of the afternoon when his Red Bull stopped on track, but nevertheless logged 130 laps to be Vettel’s closest challenger.

Sauber, Renault and Williams also broached the 100-lap mark (the latter two teams splitting running between both of their drivers), while Haas and Force India came close with 96 and 93 laps respectively.

Sahara Force India F1 Team

In an unexpected turn, Toro Rosso and Honda endured the first difficult day of their new partnership on Tuesday. After accomplishing a respectable 53 laps in the morning session with Pierre Gasly at the wheel, an unknown issue kept the STR13 confined to the garage for most of the afternoon, with Gasly adding only a single lap to his total after lunch.

But despite those troubles, Gasly still managed to end the day fifth fastest and best of the rest with a 1:20.973s, putting the Frenchman less than six tenths off Vettel’s benchmark.

Kevin Magnussen was sixth and the last of Tuesday’s drivers to be within a second of the pace. He finished ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz, who were separated by just 0.023s despite setting their laps on different tyre compounds.

Sergey Sirotkin enjoyed more profitable running than his first week of F1 testing, and was the highest-placed Williams in ninth. Two tenths separated the Russian from Sergio Pérez in tenth and Marcus Ericsson—who notched up 120 laps for Sauber—in eleventh.

Lance Stroll was Tuesday’s slowest runner behind McLaren’s Vandoorne, even though his 1:22.937s was set on the hypersoft tyre. However, with the Canadian making it to 86 laps despite sharing his day with Sirotkin, it’s likely Stroll’s programme was focused more on distance than outright pace.

Andy Hone/Williams F1

Hamilton fastest on busy end to first F1 test

Lewis Hamilton set 2018’s fastest testing time yet on Thursday, as the first week in Barcelona ended with its busiest day so far.

In total, 15 of this year’s 20 race drivers enjoyed track time at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday, with most teams opting to run both their drivers to make up for time lost during the week’s weather disruptions.

Only Ferrari, Haas, Force India, Red Bull and Toro Rosso chose not to split their day’s running.

Renault Sport F1 Team

The final day of testing began with yet another damp track, but higher temperatures compared with previous days meant meaningful running was not an impossibility.

When the track dried enough for slicks around midday, Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hülkenberg took the opportunity to trade times at the top of the leaderboard, until McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne beat them both with a 1:19.854s on the pink hypersoft tyre.

Vandoorne’s time—one of only four to dip below 1:20s this week—was good enough to hold onto the top spot for most of the afternoon, until Hamilton went half a second quicker on mediums with an hour to go.

Steven Tee/LAT Images/McLaren Media

As well as finishing second-fastest on the strength of his hypersoft time, Vandoorne was also among Thursday’s busiest drivers, with 110 laps to his name.

Only two drivers recorded more mileage than the Belgian. Sebastian Vettel, who was third-fastest behind Vandoorne, made it to 120 laps, while Pierre Gasly signed off a solid week for Toro Rosso and Honda with 147 laps.

Kevin Magnussen also had a profitable day, despite not joining Gasly, Vettel and Vandoorne in triple figures. After finishing bottom of both the time and lap charts with his first taste of the Haas VF-18 on Tuesday, the Dane bounced back on Thursday by logging 96 laps and the fourth-fastest time.

Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images/Haas F1 Media

Fernando Alonso, taking over from Vandoorne for the final few hours of Thursday, added another 51 laps to his week’s total and snatched fifth by just 0.010s from compatriot Carlos Sainz. Lance Stroll was a few tenths slower in seventh.

Sergio Pérez, driving Force India’s VJM11 for the first time, had a slow start to the session but eventually logged 65 laps and was classified eighth.

He was ahead of Max Verstappen, who by contrast had another trying day behind the wheel of the RB14. Having chosen to sit out the wet morning running, the Dutchman lost further track time with a fuel leak and a spin into the gravel later on—as a result, Verstappen recorded the lowest number of laps of the day (35) and ended the day nearly three seconds off Hamilton’s pace.

Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Thursday’s longest runner Gasly was tenth-fastest ahead of early pacesetters Hülkenberg and Bottas. The two Saubers were the last of the representative runners, with Charles Leclerc heading Marcus Ericsson by a second thanks to the afternoon’s faster track, although with 59 laps to Ericsson’s 79.

Lastly, Williams’ rookie Sergey Sirotkin spent another day at the bottom of the timesheets. The Russian handed over his FW41 to teammate Stroll in the afternoon and as such didn’t set a time on slicks, explaining his 12.646s gap to Hamilton at the front.

F1 testing resumes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya next week, running from Tuesday 6th until Friday 9th.

Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images/Pirelli Media

Vettel lowers benchmark on second day of testing

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished top of the timesheets on day two in Barcelona, setting the fastest lap of the test so far in a day of weather-limited running.

The German’s best effort, a 1:19.673s set on soft tyres, was half a second faster than Daniel Ricciardo’s Monday benchmark, and made Vettel one of only two drivers to lap within the 1:19s on day two.

The other was Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Having posted a best of 1:20.325s in the morning, the Finn was the early pacesetter until Vettel’s soft run knocked him from the top spot—but despite improving in the afternoon to join Vettel below the 1:20s barrier, Bottas remained 0.303s adrift by the close of day.

Wolfgang Wilhelm/Mercedes AMG F1

Outside of the top two, no other driver today posted lap times below Monday’s fastest, as near-freezing temperatures once again held back representative running.

Stoffel Vandoorne was the third-fastest runner of the day, 0.652s off Vettel’s pace with a best lap of 1:20.325s. The Belgian’s time was the first of the test logged on Pirelli’s new pink-walled hypersoft tyre.

Max Verstappen failed to post a time in the morning after being sidelined by a fuel leak, but improved in the afternoon to finish fourth, just 0.001s behind Vandoorne on the medium tyre.

Next up, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Williams third driver Robert Kubica all lapped within a few tenths of each other in the 1:21s. Kubica’s teammate Sergey Sirotkin and Force India’s Esteban Ocon were a little behind again, closely matched in the 1:21.8s.

Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc had a difficult first day driving the Sauber C37 with a spin in the afternoon and finishing more than three seconds off the pace, but was spared ending the day at the bottom of the timesheet at the expense of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

Jerry Andre/LAT Images/Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

The cold weather also meant that no driver managed to surpass Ricciardo’s first day total of 105 laps, although Vettel and Bottas came closest with 98 and 94 laps respectively.

Gasly held the next-highest total, putting in 82 laps in his STR13 to prove that Toro Rosso-Honda’s mileage yesterday was no fluke, while Leclerc made up for his early error with 81 laps to his name in the end.

At the other end of the lap charts, McLaren suffered another low-mileage day with an exhaust issue keeping Vandoorne in the garage from midday onwards, unable to add to his tally of 37 laps.

However, that was at least one more than Haas achieved across the day. With his programme interrupted by two off-track moments—one of which nearly ended in the barriers—Magnussen was prevented from making up for lost time when reports of snow at the end of the day brought running more or less to an end, and the Dane finished the day bottom of both the timesheet and the lap count.

Steven Tee/LAT Images/Haas F1 Team

Ricciardo tops first 2018 test; Honda nears 100 laps

Daniel Ricciardo set the pace and topped the lap charts on the opening day of Barcelona testing, while Honda showed a remarkable improvement in reliability to log 93 laps with Toro Rosso.

Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

This time last year, Honda ended the first day of testing firmly at the bottom of the lap charts, with then-partners McLaren achieving only 29 amid a spate of engine-related issues.

But after a concentrated effort to improve reliability with its 2018-spec power unit, Honda more than tripled that amount on Monday, with Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley only missing out on a century of laps when rain interrupted running late in the afternoon.

Renault Sport F1 Team

Renault also look to have made strides with their reliability compared with last winter. The factory outfit achieved a total of 99 laps over the day, splitting running between Nico Hülkenberg (73 laps) in the morning and Carlos Sainz (26 laps) in the afternoon.

The French marque’s combined total stood for a while as the most of any team, until Ricciardo edged his Renault-powered RB14 into triple figures with a few late runs in the wet before the chequered flag.

McLaren ended the day some way off its fellow Renault customers with only 51 laps recorded, although this was due to a wheel tether issue which kept Fernando Alonso in the garage for much of the morning session.

Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli Media

As expected, the lap times from day one gave little away about the pecking order for 2018, as the general consensus among teams was for reliable rather than representative running.

In addition, dropping track temperatures and a rain shower late in the afternoon session meant there were few real improvements in pace after lunch.

Ricciardo’s benchmark 1:20.179s—over 1.5s slower than last year’s fastest overall testing time—established him as the quickest driver of the morning over Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas by just under two tenths.

The Australian’s lap came as part of a last-minute flurry before lunch, in which Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen went fastest from Hülkenberg, before Bottas and then Ricciardo jumped them both in turn.

Wolfgang Wilhelm/Mercedes AMG F1

Alonso finished the day fifth-fastest and was the only driver to improve their position in the afternoon, rising from ninth on the timesheets as he made up for his morning delay.

His compatriot Sainz ranked sixth ahead of defending champion Lewis Hamilton, who took over from Mercedes teammate Bottas after lunch. These two also ended Monday at the bottom of the lap count along with Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin—who was likewise sharing driver duties—as the worsening conditions prevented any of the afternoon drivers from completing more than 30 laps each.

Hartley and Toro Rosso finished eight-fastest in the end after running as high as fifth before lunch. Behind him came Lance Stroll, Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson.

Force India development driver Nikita Mazepin sat out the whole of the afternoon session and remained twelfth, while Sirotkin’s weather-curtailed running meant the Russian rookie did not set a representative time.

Sam Bloxham/LAT Images/Pirelli Media

Haas juniors Maini and Ferrucci form Trident F2 lineup

Trident Motorsport will field an all-Haas junior F2 lineup in 2018, with Arjun Maini graduating from GP3 to partner Santino Ferrucci.

Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Maini finished ninth in the standings in his first full GP3 campaign last year, taking his first series win at the sprint race in Spain and a further podium in Abu Dhabi. He was signed to the Haas F1 junior ranks as the team’s test and development driver in May 2017.

At F2’s post-season test in Abu Dhabi, Maini drove for both Trident and Russian Time.

“I’m very excited to be competing in the FIA Formula 2 championship,” Maini said. “I felt we were very competitive during the post-season test and given the series is using all-new cars for the coming season, I’m quite excited for the year ahead.

“Trident is a very strong team and I’m sure if we work hard we’ll be in for some strong results during the course of the season.”

Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

Maini’s new teammate Ferrucci will be contesting his first full F2 season in 2018. The 19-year-old American joined Trident for the final five races of 2017 after a mid-season move up from GP3, and scored points at Hungary and Spa.

Trident team owner Maurizio Salvadori praised Ferrucci and Maini as “two undoubtably valuable prospects who have all that it takes to be among the future stars of motorsports for the years to come.

“It is certainly not by chance that [Haas F1] selected them to join their junior development programme.”

Haas VF-18 First Look

While the F1 community has been keenly watching their social media feeds for their favorite teams’ 2018 car reveal dates and marking off the days until Williams Martini Racing’s announced reveal on 15 February, Haas F1 Team stole a march on everyone. In a delightful Valentine’s Day gift to fans, Haas revealed renderings of their 2018 challenger in a video tweeted at 10:01 AM Eastern time, along with accompanying press releases and web site updatesOne of the only hints of this upcoming reveal was found in an article published on 12 February in Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

Fans, analysts, and the media wasted no time poring over the images.

Although minimized in the initial renderings by being set against a dark background, the Halo fits well with the chassis. The airbox has been modified to accommodate the altered airflow, and there is a small, jagged screen just behind the front pillar of the Halo to influence airflow through the cockpit. Congratulations to Haas’s engineers, aerodynamicists, and designers for rising to meet the many challenges the Halo introduced and producing a good-looking solution.

The nose and front wing are more evolutionary than revolutionary in comparison to those on the VF-17, though clearly developed further. The nose vane shows continued development, and the sidepod vanes have become even more flamboyant along with the bargeboard.

Haas is already taking advantage of technical loopholes, and has included a small wing at the back of the restrained shark fin, above the exhaust. We will likely see similar aerodynamic features from the other teams.

Haas’s partnership with Ferrari shows through in the sidepod inlet design, though Haas’ designers have developed them in a different manner. The partnership with Ferrari open some interesting doors; Craig Scarborough points out that as Haas is using Ferrari suspension uprights, Ferrari won’t be going with a high top wishbone. It may be possible to extrapolate some of the other features on Ferrari’s 2018 car in a similar fashion, and it should be interesting to see what ideas the F1 community puts forth leading up to Ferrari’s 22 February reveal.

Haas F1 Team’s VF-18 is a good-looking machine. While it remains to be seen whether it will deliver on Gene Haas’s goal of being within a half-second of Ferrari, we can’t wait to find out.

All images courtesy of Haas F1 Team.

Haas F1 Team Reveals its 2018 Car, the Haas VF-18

Haas VF-18 First Out the Gate

Haas F1 Team Unveils Racecar for 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship  

 

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Feb. 14, 2018) – Haas F1 Team’s 2018 challenger in the FIA Formula One World Championship, the VF-18, made its official debut today via the organization’s social media platforms and website.

 

The VF-18 is an evolution of the team’s second car, the VF-17, which carried Haas F1 Team to an eighth-place finish in the 2017 constructors standings. Forty-seven points were scored by the VF-17 during Haas F1 Team’s sophomore season, 18 points more than the total earned in the organization’s debut season in 2016.

 

 

Incorporating “VF” into the name of the car is a nod to the history of Haas Automation, the team’s title sponsor. The first CNC machine manufactured by Haas Automation was the VF-1 in 1988. The “V” stands for vertical, which is an industry standard designation for a vertical mill. Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation, added “F1” to the name to unofficially designate it as the company’s “Very First One”.

 

As chairman of Haas F1 Team, the “F1” moniker of that first machine has taken on added significance as Haas utilizes Formula One to build Haas Automation into a premium, global brand.

 

“People see what we can do in Formula One and people believe Haas Automation can build world-class machine tools,” said Haas, whose entry in 2016 became the first American Formula One team since 1986. “Being a Formula One participant brings a level of credibility that you just won’t get through traditional advertising.”

 

Haas has built Haas Automation into the largest machine tool manufacturer in North America by focusing on the details amid constant refinement. He has applied those same attributes to Haas F1 Team.

 

“We eliminated a lot of the variables where we knew we were weak,” Haas said. “We’ve focused on what it’s going to take to get our car to be consistent and close that gap to the top teams.”

 

 

Beyond refinement, the VF-18 carries the significant addition of the halo and a drastic reduction in the sharkfin.

 

“The biggest part of the car’s evolution was the addition of the halo,” said Guenther Steiner, team principal, Haas F1 Team. “It took quite a bit of study by the aerodynamicists, but the designers had to work hard to modify the chassis so the halo could survive the mandated loads. The total minimum weight of the car increased because of the halo, and there’s a higher center of gravity simply because of the halo’s position. But, everyone is in the same boat.

 

“The regulations stayed pretty stable between 2017 and 2018, so the VF-18 is an evolution of our car from last year. It’s less about reinvention and more about refinement. You see elements we had from last year on the car this year.

 

“Our 2017 car was actually pretty good, but we didn’t always get the best out of it, and that’s what we aimed to change in 2018. We got the car as light as possible to carry more ballast. We were able to do a better job of putting the weight where we wanted it.”

 

The corporate colors of Haas Automation were carried over to the VF-18. Gray makes up the majority of the livery, augmented with tones of red and black that incorporates the look of Haas Automation’s complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. Approximately 1,300 employees encompass Haas Automation, with the Oxnard, California-based company exporting its machines to more than 60 countries. The VF-18 showcases Haas Automation’s commitment to technology and innovation to a passionate, global audience.

 

 

“The livery is a little bit of a return to what we had on our first car, the VF-16,” Steiner added. “Its look is clean and precise, just like the machine tools made by Haas Automation.”

 

The VF-18 tests at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya Feb. 26-March 1 and again March 6-9 before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix March 25 in Melbourne.

 

-HaasF1Team-

 

 

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American Formula One team since 1986. Founded by industrialist Gene Haas, Haas F1 Team is based in the United States on the same Kannapolis, North Carolina, campus as his championship-winning NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing. Haas is the founder of Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America, and he is chairman of Haas F1 Team.

 

Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 102,000 square-meter (1.1 million square-foot) manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets that provides the industry’s best sales, service and support while offering unparalleled cost-to-performance value. For more information, please visit us on the Web at www.HaasCNC.com, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/HaasAutomationInc, on Twitter @Haas_Automation and on Instagram @Haas_Automation.

Grand Prix of Mexico Qualifying Reaction

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

The twin themes for Qualifying are excitement and disappointment. On the excitement front, watching the shootout for P1 was thrilling. While it’s certainly au courant to knock the current generation of power units, as the 2017 package hits high levels of development it’s fantastic to see the track records falling. Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in its current incarnation may not have much of a history to compare against, but it’s nonetheless exciting to see records fall.

On the disappointment front, the luckless Pierre Gasly of Scuderia Toro Rosso will be starting from the back after missing Qualifying due to a power unit change, and Brendon Hartley’s promising start to qualifying was also cut short due to an engine failure of his own. Haas failed to perform to expectations, and even typical high performers Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo qualified below their proven potential. One can perhaps understand Ricciardo’s slower pace in comparison to his teammate as Verstappen has a more advanced power unit, but it’s still unusual to see him so far behind. McLaren continues to show how what could have been, and Williams continues in their inconsistent form.

Renault and Force India occupied the middle ground between the extremes. Their drivers all delivered competent performances, qualifying in the lower half of the top 10, but apart from the crowd’s obvious love for Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez the highs and lows experienced by the other teams overshadowed their solid performance.

Q1:
It was no surprise to see Ferrari open with a strong performance on supersoft tyres, though while Sebastian Vettel finished the session in 4th his teammate Kimi Raikkonen fell to 7th, behind McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Force India’s Sergio Perez.

While Mercedes was able to beat Ferrari, they did it on ultrasofts. While Mercedes’ pace is generally undeniable, their need for the softer compounds this round shows that they’re not as safe as they might be.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the Ferrari times – also on supersofts. Hamilton’s engine gremlins continued, with Hamilton reporting another engine cut during the latter half of the session. Regardless, his early time of 1:17.518 ensured he’d safely advance to Q2. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo completed the session in 10th.

Force India’s Sergio Perez, the local favorite, put delivered a solid performance for his supporters the grandstands and occupied 6th.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso continued to demonstrate the sadly-unrealized potential of the car by climbing to 5th in the first half of Q1 following a forgettable series of practice sessions. The waning moments of Q1 showed Honda’s return to form as Alonso reported no power and no turbo. Despite this, he still managed to deliver excellent sector times as the flag fell.

The flying laps after the chequered flag saw the usual last-minute excitement among the backmarkers. Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne climbed to 13th. Toro Rosso’s resident Kiwi, the impressive Brendon Hartley, advanced, finishing the session in 14th. Williams’ Lance Stroll rounded out the Q2 field in 15th. Sadly, Haas and Sauber both failed to put together enough performance to advance to Q2. Given the disparity between Sauber and Haas’ power units, Haas’ finishing behind Sauber is troubling.

Advancing to Q2: HAM BOT VER ALO PER RAI RIC HUL OCO SAI MAS VAN HAR STR

Excluded: ERI WEH MAG GRO GAS

Q2:
Records continued to have a very short lifespan due to the battle at the top of the timing chart, and ultrasofts are the order of the session among the frontrunners. Bottas rocketed to the top of the leaderboard with an opening time of 1:17.161 on ultrasofts, but was topped by Vettel with 1:17.058 (incidentally setting a new track record). Hamilton, disregarding any worries over his engine, put in a blistering new record time of 1:17.035 in turn.

Hartley’s Toro Rosso let him down in the early stage of the session with a sadly-familiar puff of smoke echoing Gasly’s FP3 misfortune. His radio message to the pit wall, “No power, no power,” signaled the end of a promising day and bringing out a yellow.

The yellow flags caused Max Verstappen to back off a promising lap, but he recovered to set his own new record of 1:16.524. Vettel fought back and topped Hamilton, but wasn’t able to unseat Verstappen.

Force India and Renault certainly took part in Q2, but apart from the crowd’s cheering for Checo there wasn’t much notable in their performance – but an unexciting advancement to Q3 is just as much an advancement to Q3 as an exciting one, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Williams continued to suffer from their ongoing inability to quite bring everything together, and elected to only run late in the session. The lower air pressure at altitude contributed to their woes thanks to the associated lack of downforce, and they weren’t able to rise out of the drop zone.

While Vandoorne and Alonso did each put in an early lap, McLaren elected to not attempt to set times for Q2 to preserve tyres, and likely power units, for the race. After Alonso’s excellent Q1 performance it’s disappointing to see McLaren still making these decisions.

Advancing to Q3: VER VET HAM BOT RAI RIC SAI HUL OCO PER

Excluded: MAS STR HAR VAN ALO

Q3:
The crowd loves Checo, and their excitement seeing him in Q3 comes through.

The battle for pole didn’t disappoint, and once again the boots of choice were ultrasofts. Bottas got a good start, but was forced to abort his early flying lap when he came up on a slower-moving Verstappen in the Foro Sol section. While Verstappen did move off to the left, Bottas wound up braking hard and locking up briefly before diving for the pits where he was to remain until the closing minutes of the session. The stewards announced an investigation into Verstappen for impeding Bottas, but in a move that will doubtless ease any sense of anti-Verstappen bias determined that no action was warranted.

Hamilton put in a valiant effort and sat briefly in P1 himself with a repsectable-but-not-unbeatable time of 1:16.934. The churn in P2 was entertaining, with Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Sainz, and Ocon occupying the position in turn until Sebastian Vettel coaxed his SF70H, Gina, into delivering a lap of 1:16.833, pushing everyone ahead of Verstappen down a spot.

Verstappen responded with a fastest first and second sector, going on to set an excellent time of 1:16.574. For a moment it seemed that a record other than track time, namely youngest pole winner, might be broken, but this sadly wasn’t to be.

After the mid-session lull, Bottas completed his flying lap with a 4th-place 1:16.958 shortly before the chequered flag fell. Hamilton was unable to improve his time.

After the flag fell, Vettel completed his own flying lap to set a new record with a time of 1:16.488, securing his 50th pole position. Verstappen was unable to improve his own time, taking second. Bottas’s own final lap wasn’t enough to improve his position.

As with Q2, the battle at the front overshadowed otherwise competent drives from Renault and Force India. And as with advancing to Q3, an unexciting top-10 starting position is just as much a top-10 as an exciting one. Ocon certainly had the best performance of the midfield, qualifying a surprising 6th ahead of Ricciardo.

As the dust settled on an exciting qualifying session, the grid prior to penalties was VET VER HAM BOT RAI ECO RIC HUL SAI PER MAS STR HAR ALO VAN ERI WEH MAG GRO GAS.

With Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen on the front row, one can only imagine the conversations in the Ferrari and Red Bull camps, hoping to avoid a repeat of the carnage at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix. Even though it’s quite possible that we’ll see the Drivers Championship locked up for Lewis Hamilton during the race session, it’s still exciting to see Red Bull and Ferrari bringing the fight to Mercedes at this late stage of the season. Hamilton’s engine gremlins certainly add an element of uncertainty, and Renault-powered teams will doubtless be keeping a wary eye on their engines following Toro Rosso’s troubles.

Steiner: Haas hopeful for “new opportunity” at high-speed Spa

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has said his American team is looking forward to this weekend’s power-dependant Belgian Grand Prix, having struggled in the low-speed races prior to the summer break.

Andy Hone/LAT Images/Haas F1 Media

Haas began July with its best result of the season so far, when Romain Grosjean finished sixth in Austria. But since then the team’s form has hit a considerable slump: at Silverstone, Grosjean dropped back from a top ten start to squabble with Saubers and McLarens outside the points, whilst in Hungary Kevin Magnussen was the sole Haas finisher in thirteenth, only three places higher than his disappointing qualifying position.

But Steiner believes that the engine-favouring characteristics of the upcoming races at Spa and Monza ought to bring about a return to form for the American team.

“We struggled a little bit in Hungary with it being a low-speed track,” Steiner said. “We are bringing some items for low downforce or low drag for Spa and Monza, and we are as confident as we can be that it works.

“If you’re good in Spa, you normally should be good in Monza too…so, let’s hope we are good in Spa.”

Andy Hone/LAT Images/Haas F1 Media

Steiner added that Haas has “tried to hit the reset button” in its preparation for the second half of the season:

“Hungary certainly tested the team, but it showed how hard we work to overcome adversity while remaining positive. Belgium is a new race and a new opportunity. Everything is possible here. We will try hard and we will come back again.”

However, the Austrian did also confirm that Haas will revert back to using Brembo brakes this weekend, despite successful running of Carbon Industrie alternatives in Britain and Hungary, as they continue hunting for a solution to their recurrent braking issues: “At Spa we will be running Brembos to start off with and then we will see, but at the moment the plan is to run Brembos.”

Andy Hone/LAT Images/Haas F1 Media

In addition to that, Steiner said that there will be no major performances updates fitted to the VF-17 this weekend (besides the usual adaptations for Spa’s low-downforce demands), though the team is “working through the data we gained from our last wind tunnel test” ahead of a possible upgrade package for Japan or the United States.

Whether or not Haas opts to bring a last raft of updates in October will likely depend on the progress of its 2018 car development, which Steiner says has been complicated by the late mandating of the Halo system:

“We’ll [have to] work on how we get the weight down on other parts of the car because we are at the minimum weight, otherwise our car just gets too heavy [with the Halo]. We also need to find the best solution aerodynamically to integrate the Halo into the overall body.

“It’s head scratching. For sure, there is work to be done.”