F1 qualifying analysis how costly will kimi’s q3 error prove to be for ferrari feature electricity definition physics

As quotes from Kimi Raikkonen go, this one was particularly entertaining. Trotted out in response to a question on Thursday about his decision to join social media over the winter break, the Iceman left us chuckling over our transcripts for his worldly insight that could now be used as the perfect excuse for – well, just about anything. Even by his high standards, this was a fine way to say something while actually saying nothing.

Kimi couldn’t fob us off with a similar excuse come Saturday in Baku after qualifying. Following an impressive start to the season that has seen him roughly match Sebastian Vettel for pace (even if the results haven’t quite matched up) his chance to score his first pole position since last year’s Monaco Grand Prix arose through a rollercoaster session.

Raikkonen was rather fortunate to even make it through to Q3, having made an error and run off the track during his first Q2 run, flat-spotting his only set of Supersofts in the process. That forced a safety-first approach to switch Raikkonen on to Ultrasofts to complete his fastest – and only – lap in Q2, ensuring he would start the race on the softest and different tyres to his front-running rivals. A rapid lap saw him rise up to P1 late on, putting him firmly in the fight for pole.

There may have been fine margins between Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes in Q3, yet it was the men in red who had a decisive march on their rivals. Vettel’s first lap in Q3 was three-tenths of a second quicker than that of Lewis Hamilton, but Raikkonen was a further six-tenths back in the sister Ferrari after a scruffy first lap, running wide at Turn 16 and narrowly avoiding the barrier.

The roles looked set to reverse for their second efforts, with Vettel locking up in the first sector and losing time. His mistake meant that he was unable to improve on his provisional pole time, opening the door for the rest of the field to swallow him up and end his streak of qualifying successes.

Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas both improved on their second efforts, but not by enough to overhaul the Ferrari at the top. The same was true for the Red Bulls, who had to settle for P4 and P5. And it looked set to become P5 and P6 as Raikkonen began to light the timesheets purple.

Up in sector one, Raikkonen managed to negotiate the tricky Turn 15 where he had gone off earlier in the day without any issues before hurtling down the hill and cutting the Sector 2 beam. Two-tenths up. With practically one more corner before the flat-out final sector, pole was there for Raikkonen to take.

Alas, just as it was on his first Q3 run, Turn 16 proved to be Raikkonen’s downfall once again. The rear-end kicked out, forcing the Finn into a big correction. While he was able to keep the car out of the wall, the damage was done. He didn’t even improve his previous time, meaning he was left down in sixth.

It was a disappointing comedown for Raikkonen, one that he took all on his own shoulders after qualifying. He didn’t do the usual racing driver act of pinning it on tyres, balance or – as would have been fair in Baku, such were conditions – the high winds. “No excuses,” Kimi said. “It was a fuck up, a mistake, and cost us quite a few places.”

We’ve seen in all three races so far this season just how crucial having a second bullet in the gun can be. Ferrari managed to outfox Mercedes in Australia by using Raikkonen as a dummy, running Vettel longer on what ultimately was a race-winning strategy as Hamilton fought alone, having lost Bottas to the lower reaches of the grid in qualifying.

In Bahrain, the roles were reversed, with Mercedes piling pressure on the lone Vettel at the front, while Ferrari had the upper-hand in China, sacrificing Raikkonen’s race to try and give Vettel a shot at victory. Although it wasn’t to be, it was nevertheless an option Mercedes just did not have given Hamilton’s struggles.

Baku has already proven it can throw up crazy races, with 2017’s thriller putting the race firmly in F1’s history books. The 2016 GP2 event was so bonkers it prompted all F1 teams to be extra-cautious that same year, but the feeling from most of the drivers post-qualifying is that won’t be the case on Sunday: they’re expecting something more like last year’s event.

As a result, strategy calls on the fly could be crucial in deciding the race. Red Bull nailed its call in China as Daniel Ricciardo charged to a win. Had Max Verstappen showed more patience, he may well have won instead. Either way, a one-two finish was surely on the cards, such was the pace advantage on the Soft tyre.

Tomorrow’s race is widely expected to be a one-stopper, with the leaders all slated to start on Supersofts with the exception of Raikkonen, allowing them to go deep into the race before pitting – or, in short, longer to wait for a Safety Car to come along and give them the opportunity to stop instead of getting caught out.

The saving grace for Ferrari and Raikkonen is that the crossover between one- and two-stop strategies is not close, with estimates being around a 17-second loss of time for pitting again. Degradation on the Supersoft tyre has been really low all weekend, also. If Vettel can retain his lead off the line and make a quick getaway, Mercedes won’t have the kind of options it did in Bahrain to try and outfox him.

Red Bull will also be aiming to get into the mix, having displayed a decent race pace through FP2 on Friday. From P4 and P5 though, it’s perhaps a bigger fight than expected, with two Silver Arrows and a Ferrari to overcome at the front. Again, the lack of strategy options also makes it more difficult.