‘What’s going on?’: The big question mark hanging over title race — F1 Qualifying LIVE
All eyes will be on Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on Saturday night as the two race it out for pole position for the penultimate race of the season.
Red Bull’s Verstappen currently holds the lead in the Formula 1 championship race but Mercedes’ Hamilton is just eight points behind.
Verstappen could take out the championship this weekend if he pockets 18 points more than Hamilton, although the seven-time title holder himself could leapfrog the current leader if results go his way.
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It makes for an intriguing qualifying as Hamilton looks to secure pole position again having done so two weeks ago at Qatar before going on to take out the main race that weekend.
Hamilton clocked the fastest time in both practice sessions on Saturday but admitted he is concerned about Mercedes’ short-run pace compared to Red Bull.
“We’re not rapid on the single lap, I would say, compared to the others, but our long-run pace seemed like it was not too bad,” he said.
“Who knows what’s going on?
“As I said, we made some changes between sessions, and I’m unsure which one I want to stay with but we’ll study through it tonight and work with the guys back at the factory to try and make sure that we come with the correct set-up for tomorrow. It’s definitely not in a bad place.
“I think I said over a single lap, [Red Bull] are quite quick, so we’ve got a bit of work to do.”
Working in Hamilton’s favour will be a switch to a fresher power unit for the rest of the weekend after topping practice despite racing with an older engine.
“It’s another step in the right direction,” Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin told Sky Sports of the change.
“It will be a measurable step. Tomorrow we need to get all the performance possible on the car.”
Red Bull has struggled to match Mercedes for straight-line speed in recent races but team boss Christian Horner does not think it will be as important this time around.
“The circuit’s a little bit tighter than the data suggested,” Horner told Sky Sports.
“The corners are a little bit tighter. It’s not all the emphasis on horsepower that we thought it was going to be. So that’s encouraging.
“You could see there’s a tenth or two between the two cars, between the drivers. On this type of circuit, you can find that, and that’s really encouraging for us.”
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