In the weirdest karmic revenge for ditching elimination qualifying, we saw a number of drivers out of their cars before the end of the second qualifying session anyway. A loose wheel caused a red flag with just over a minute left in the session to go.
Sadly, Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg did not crack up hilariously when his wheel came loose during the second qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix. However, I do think this wheel may have traveled farther than the laughing track day guy’s broken wheel, so there’s at least that.
With only 1:17 to go in the session, this caught several drivers out who were about to head back out for a flying lap. There wasn’t enough time left to set a full lap time for anyone with times in the elimination zone and the red flag halted several flying laps in progress, so some drivers simply got out of their cars early at that point. Williams’ Felipe Massa in particular was the big surprise that was caught out by the late yellow.
Massa explained his frustration Sky Sports:
It’s a bit unlucky with what happened with the red flag. But on my first lap I made a mistake at Turn 12. Everything would have been alright without the red flag so I’m a bit frustrated.
Anything can happen with the strategy, we could be strong in the race tomorrow.
Hülkenberg had actually set a fast enough time to make it into the final qualifying session, however, losing this wheel ruled him out from participating. His team is now under investigation for the unsafe release of a car with a loose wheel.
Full qualifying results can be found here. Of particular note is Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo starting from second position. This is only the second front-row start for Red Bull since 2015. Perhaps those “Tag Heuer” engines are finally holding up. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg is on pole.
UPDATE: Hülkenberg received a three-place grid drop for the unsafe release.