Sunday, June 19, 2016

Rosberg Rises, Hamilton In The Hole In European Grand Prix Qualifying

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG

The 8th race for the Formula 1 tour is among one of two all-new stops for the world's top open wheel racing series. Making its first visit to the country of Azerbaijan (a region that borders Russia, Iran and the Caspian Sea), Formula 1 cars will be contesting the European Grand Prix for 51 laps on a 6.001 street course inside the city of Baku, The inaugural event in the bustling city located below sea level has 22 drivers and cars looking for the inside line for the 21-turn track. Familiarising with the Baku City Circuit through three practice sessions, two things apparent was the potentially punishing nature of the temporary race course and the Mercedes-Benz powered machines were quick. In Saturday qualifying both factors were in play.

The Mercedes AMG drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton achieved contrasting efforts in the final qualifying session. Grabbing the first-ever pole for the European Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit, Rosberg posted a 1-minute, 42.758-second top time. The gap between the pole-sitting time and second place was 0.757 seconds existing in part due to the faltering of teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final minutes of the Q3 session. Hamilton made contact with the turn 11 wall with only two minutes remaining for drivers to post qualifying efforts. Damaging his suspension, Hamilton will start in the 10th place position suffering an issue other drivers experienced through practices on the Baku track. Following several races where Lewis Hamilton appeared to have gained championship-winning form, qualifying issues that had plagued the British driver in some early 2016 events appear to be lingering.

With qualifying cut short due to the red flag, drivers planning on progressing up the top-10 grid with late timed runs were defeated in their attempts. Helped partially because of the way qualifying ended, the runner-up in the final session was a surprise effort from Force India. Advantaged with Mercedes-Benz power but also proving highly competitive throughout the weekend in Baku, Sergio Perez allowed him to share the top-3 in qualifying with Nico Rosberg and third place Daniel Ricciardo driving for Red Bull Racing. Unfortunately for Perez and the Force India team, celebrations were tainted by a Saturday practice accident that required a gearbox change. Because of the incident, Sergio Perez has been dropped to seventh place on the starting grid.

With Daniel Ricciardo promoted to the front row, the second row of the 2016 European Grand Prix is all-Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel starts third after setting an identical time to Ricciardo (the Red Bull claimed the advantage on the grid since that car set the time first). Alongside Vettel is Kimi Raikkonen's red Ferrari. The effort showed the Scuderia Ferrari team in much better form than what was displayed in the Mercedes-Benz-dominated practice.

The Mercedes-Benz powered Williams Martini Racing squad both start in the top-10 a week after Valtteri Bottas scored the team's first podium result for 2016. Felipe Massa will start fifth on Sunday while Bottas is positioned in eighth place between Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

Predicting the inaugural 51 laps on the Baku City Circuit, Pirelli believes competitors will opt for a one-stop strategy. Also, based on the nature of the race weekend, there appears to be good chance of seeing a safety car at some point in the 2016 European Grand Prix. Sunday's race start is scheduled for 5 pm local time (9 am Eastern time).

2016 Formula 1
European Grand Prix
Starting Grid

Pos #/ Car #/ Driver/ Team/ Engine

1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG Heuer
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari
5 19 Felipe Massa Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
6 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
7 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes-Benz
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams F1 Mercedes-Benz
9 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG Heuer
10 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Mercedes-Benz
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes-Benz
13 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
14 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda
15 9 Esteban Gutierrez Haas F1 Team Ferrari
16 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber Ferrari
17 98 Rio Haryanto Manor Mercedes-Benz
18 28 Pascal Wehrlein Manor Mercedes-Benz
19 22 Jenson Button McLaren Honda
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari
21 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault Renault
22 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault

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