Vettel snatches pole from Raikkonen again

2018 Chinese Grand Prix qualifying

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Sebastian Vettel denied Kimi Raikkonen pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix as Ferrari claimed its second consecutive front row lock-out.

In an unusually cold qualifying session the Ferrari pair bumped the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton back to the second row, and all four will start on the harder soft compound tyres.


The story of Q1 was how Daniel Ricciardo, in his hastily repaired Red Bull, made it onto the track with seconds to spare and grabbed a place in Q2. A power unit failure in final practice meant his mechanics had to scramble to get the car repaired. He headed out with just enough time to make the cut.

It was close, however. Ricciardo ended an otherwise tidy lap by running wide at the turn 14 hairpin and crossed the line in 13th place, just three-tenths of a second outside of the drop zone.

The Sauber drivers were rooted to the bottom of the times. Marcus Ericsson ended the session almost half a second off team mate Charles Leclerc, despite the rookie spinning at the exit of the final corner.

On his final lap Leclerc complained he’d lost a lot of time by locking up at the penultimate corner. “The rest of the lap was positive,” he said on the radio afterwards. “I’m getting there but sorry for these two errors. I’m not sure Q2 would have been possible.”

Sergey Sirotkin looked like a contender for Q2 until Ricciardo hit the track. After their strong run in Bahrain, Toro Rosso were once again struggling to escape Q1. Pierre Gasly didn’t make it but Brendon Hartley did, grabbing the last place by a few hundredths of a second.

Vettel ended the first part of qualifying on top, an impressive seven-tenths of a second ahead of the fastest Mercedes driver, which was Bottas. Hamilton was over a second behind.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Sergey SirotkinWilliams-Mercedes1’34.062
17Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’34.101
18Lance StrollWilliams-Mercedes1’34.285
19Charles LeclercSauber-Ferrari1’34.454
20Marcus EricssonSauber-Ferrari1’34.914


Ferrari and Mercedes opted for soft tyres at the start of the session, indicating they intended to start the race on the harder rubber. After the first runs the red cars were comfortably ahead, but the Mercedes pair went out on another set of softs and moved ahead. The Ferrari drivers did their final laps on ultra-softs, apparently getting sighter laps in for their critical Q3 runs, setting fast sector times before pitting.

Nico Hulkenberg was the quickest ultra-soft runner, ahead of Romain Grosjean and both Red Bulls. Behind them the fight for the final Q3 places was closely fought.

Despite taking a slipstream from team mate Stoffel Vandoorne, Fernando Alonso missed out the top 10 again when he was beaten by Esteban Ocon. The Force India driver was then knocked out by his team mate, who went a tenth of a second faster.

Two other drivers squeezed into that gap: Carlos Sainz Jnr, who made the cut, and Kevin Magnussen who didn’t, despite having been competitive in practice. He missed the cut by 16 thousandths of a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’32.986
12Esteban OconForce India-Mercedes1’33.057
13Fernando AlonsoMcLaren-Renault1’33.232
14Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren-Renault1’33.505
15Brendon HartleyToro Rosso-Honda1’33.795


As in Bahrain Raikkonen led the way during the first runs in Q3. Mercedes offered little threat to Ferrari, Bottas the quickest of their drivers in third place. The Red Bull pair were bumped back to the third row.

Only one part of that picture changed on their final runs – but it was a significant one. Raikkonen posted a fractional improvement on his final run, but wasn’t able to match the best time through the final sector.

Vettel was superbly committed through the final corners, and that was what made the difference. For the second weekend in a row he snatched pole position from his team mate, this time by just 87 thousandths of a second.

Ferrari’s improvement left the Mercedes pair over half a second behind. Hamilton abandoned his final run, able to do no better than fourth, as he had in Bahrain.

Nico Hulkenberg was the leading driver behind the Red Bulls, while Sergio Perez moved up to eighth for Force India. Romain Grosjean fell to 10th at the end.

Top ten in Q3

1Sebastian VettelFerrari1’31.095
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’31.182
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’31.625
4Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’31.675
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’31.796
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull-TAG Heuer1’31.948
7Nico HulkenbergRenault1’32.532
8Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes1’32.758
9Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’32.819
10Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’32.855

2018 Chinese Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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94 comments on “Vettel snatches pole from Raikkonen again”

  1. Slightly gutted at Kimi losing pole at the death.

    I don’t know if Perez qualified above the car, or if Ocon underperformed, but good to see Force India moving back into they fray.

    1. Oh, and nicely done by the RBR crew to get Daniel out in Q1, allowing him to sail through to Q3.

    2. With Ocon/Perez, I think it was a matter of timing – Ocon being first, then track evolving and Perez, Sainz overtaking Ocon, MAG, ALO

      1. track evolving

        @bosyber – that’s a very good point, since I heard that there was a heavy thunderstorm last night, which meant that FP3 was on a green track.

    3. I personally would have been happily surprised had Kimi not lost pole – it’s part of how things are in F1, I think, and also Vettel tends to be really really good at that last effort (as he was during his Red Bull days too).

      1. Vettel just has his extra tenth, kinda like Ham has two tenths.

        1. @jureo You never get tired of that?

        2. I guess Bottas has 3 huh

          1. I guess he does! Good job Bottas.

    4. I think that Ferrari ordered Kimi not to be on pole.

      1. You are right. Raikkonen has a clock inside his head that told him that losing 9/1000 th of a second on his flying lap was just about slow enough for Vettel to take pole. Ferrari also ordered Vettel not to lose out at any corners, of course.

  2. What a stellar and Senna-esque lap from Hamilton!
    Oh wait…
    I meant Vettel.

  3. Temperatures were low. Lewis equals his pole time from last year, 1:31.6.. Ferrari clear favourites tomorrow.

    1. We don’t know if Mercedes set up the car for the race or whether Ferrari went pure qualifying biased. Remember that in Bahrain the Mercedes was better on the tyres than Ferrari. Let’s wait and see tomorow, at least we have some reason to wake up for tomorrow.

      1. I don’t think they were @krichelle they just had better tyres on. If anything Ferrari were stronger in making those tyres last so long. Theres no point “waiting to see” Ferrari have the best car as they have done for some time now.

      2. Nope, Bottas was never in the hunt for the P1 spot till the last lap and this despite being on better tires than the Ferrari. Ferrari were outright quickest in that race but had to eke out a win since the second driver had to retire and not give important info on the second set of tires for their lead driver. They had to go to a last minute strategy but still got the win. Not sure how that shows Mercedes were better on the tires.

        Also Hamilton and Bottas had multiple lock ups on the tires while Vettel was pristine on the softs that were way past its usable life.

        1. “The tyre wear of our car this year has been very good and in general better than the field.“

          This was a quote coming from James Allison’s pit wall debrief after Bahrain. And from the races so far, it seems to be correct. Bottas was catching Vettel at the end of the first stint in Bahrain and Hamilton was able to keep up with Vettel in Melbourne in spite of being on older tyres than him.

      3. In Bahrain, Ferrari fell for Mercedes’ dummy pitstop hook, line and sinker and brought Vettel in to negate the undercut (hence the early stop), but as we know, that didn’t happen. The fact that Sebastian eked out a set of softs for forty laps, THAT is impressive.

      4. Considering Toto’s comments about the car setup, I have the same theory that you do. Merc’s do not have much strategic options tomorrow however I believe they will be faster in the race, as they were in Australia and Bahrain. If they can push Ferraris with their speed in the race, they may have a good chance with an undercut or overcut. That is, if Verstappen will not pass them in the start with his ultrasofts.

    2. @osella-alfaromeo To be precise he beat his pole time from last season by a mere 3 thousands (0.003), LOL.

    3. Mercedes were quicker, marginally, in Q2 on the Softs and the top 4 all start on those tyres for the race, so it is not a foregone conclusion although Ferrari must be favourites.

      The key is the speed trap times on the long straight, anyone see those?

      If either car is more than ~5 kmh quicker then that car will win.

      One stopper?

      1. After Hamilton set the pace in Q2, Raikonen goes fastest in sector 1 & 2 (On soft i think), but he and Vettel abondoned their laps and go to pit.

        1. Sky said US

          1. Yeah, it was US tires. I guess they were practicing for Q3.

    4. So far this year, track conditions have a role to play along with how each car is behaving with different compounds. Ferrari seems more stable to the fluctuations while Mercedes is more sensitive. It could change on Sunday.

    5. Good thing noone talking about Mercedes party mode anymore, as Ferrari have a rave mode… its funny… mercedes were faster because of engine mode, now ferrari faster not a single mention? is it because vettel or ferrari just better cars without engine modes :) people will complain when mercedes lead the race after 1-3 laps saying oh again party mode they are faster…

      1. @mysticus

        Good thing noone talking about Mercedes party mode anymore, as Ferrari have a rave mode… its funny… mercedes were faster because of engine mode, now ferrari faster not a single mention?

        I assume you don’t get Crofty?

  4. Another missed pole for Kimi. I want to see his lap compared to Seb’s because he was rapid through the first two sectors. I wonder if Mercedes are paying the price for doing almost little running on the US tyres during testing because they were focusing so much on long stints that they might have given up too much on qualifying. They might have the better car in the race but if they think that locking the 2nd row in qualifying is good enough for them to win then they might have gone the wrong way.

    1. I want to see his lap compared to Seb’s

      Yeah @krichelle and I want to see Seb’s monster of a final sector, as he made up that deficit, and some more.


        It seems that Vettel has a higher top speed that is why he gained quite a lot in the back straight. Kimi also ran slightly wide at the hairpin .

        1. While I must thank you for that video @krichelle – man, the difference is so fine that I couldn’t even spot it :-)
          In any case, great stuff, it’s a great example of both drivers pushing the machinery to the limit.

    2. Yeah, I think VET recovered 0.2 in the last sector. After the 2nd sector he was slower by 0.1 and at the end of the lap he improved RAI time by 0.1.

    3. I think Kimi pushed too hard on Sectors 1 and 2 and simply killed his tyres. But still I’m so happy finally see him fast again and fighting Seb

  5. Nico Hülkenberg again seventh. Going to Renault was a good move for him. I don’t think Sainz is under performing, we have seen Hülkenberg do this at Sauber and Force India before. It just stuns me this man has never lucked into a podium like Stroll or Perez (not all of them) have done before…

    1. It just stuns me this man has never lucked into a podium

      … or a better team (i.e. the top 3)

      1. I think The Hulk is the best unsung driver on the grid out there. He has had one pole position – was it Brazil 2010?. Somehow top teams seem to overlook him when it comes to driver hunting. But at 30 years of age, he still has a chance to make it big.

        I was hoping that The Hulk and not Bottas was going to replace Rosberg at Merc.

        1. @loup-garou Yes, he took his first and so far only pole position in Brazil in 2010.

    2. @flatsix Right, if Stroll can luck into a Podium…here’s hoping it comes to Hulk this year.

      1. Maldonado lucked in to a dominant win. So I guess anything is possible.

        1. @jureo

          Maldonaldo didn’t luck into a win he delivered a flawless performance on said day, it was one of them days he harnessed his talent and delivered a serious performance.

    3. It’s a shame indeed that Hulk is not driving a better car. Kinda hope he gets RAI’ seat when he retires, but I don’t think there’re big chances. He’s starting to get old (31 this year) and might be an issue too.

      1. He is to tall. It is an automatic penalty under current regulations, even if he was as skilled as Hamilton he would be 2 tenths off.

        Not many people have two tenths in hands to then perform at top driver level, while carrying height penalty.

  6. It’s clear Ferrari is best on hot and cold conditions with the softer tyres this year.

    But god, Vettel is so unlikeable I’m rooting for anyone else to win..

    1. Lol I love when people say this. Maybe I’m one of the few that doesn’t care who wins. I just want a fun race. I never met any of the drivers neither does anything either one of them ever do has any affect in my life. So I really don’t care about their personality. They provide entertainment. I wonder what did Vettel do to you that made you not like him? Do you know him personally ?

  7. Great lap by Sebastian. In b4 the excuse-makers and conspiracy-theorists.

    1. Yeah, 0.08 seconds faster than a guy most people say doesn’t deserve his seat in F1 is really impressive.

      1. Seems like “most people” don’t know what they’re talking about.

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        14th April 2018, 8:43

        Well Kimi is often good in qualifying, but looses it in the race and vettel a fair bit quicker. But I do think Kimi is under rated. I often think he’s not good enough for Ferrari, but I certainly think he should still be on the grid. But around a 10th of a second slower than Vettel isn’t really really close as drivers are often a lot closer to their team mates.

        1. @thegianthogweed Often closer than 0.087 drivers to their team-mates? Can you back up that statement? Only Lewis was closer than that to Bottas on today’s grid…

          1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
            14th April 2018, 12:00

            I’m talking about other occasions in other qualifying sessions. Of which there have been plenty of occasions where team mates have been separated my smaller margins than these. Is my statement backed up enough now? I’m not just basing it on this race. I don’t know if it is worth bothering with but I think I will be able to find over 10 times over just last year where a pair of team mates were closer to each other than Kimi was to Vettel today. that is my point. It isn’t that close given how often other drivers are closer to their team mates. But I have nothing against Kimi. He did really well, Vettel just did marginally better.

      3. Most people? Have you done a survey? Or is yourself “most people” in your eyes?

        1. When it was half a second from Vettel and 30 seconds in the race most people would agree he needs to go.

          But with this pace he is bang on where he needs to be.

          Kinda like Bottas, he needs to beat Hamilton a lot to keep that seat.

          For Ferrari seat it is ideal to keep within half a tenth behind Vettel for Kimi.

      4. His lap was faultless. OK it would be nice to have all drivers using the same machinery if we were to make a perfect driver rankings, however from onboards you can see there is nothing left on the table.

    2. Great laps by both of them.

    3. the excuse-makers and conspiracy-theorists.

      because you never sink down to the level I’m sure you put these people at.

  8. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    14th April 2018, 8:35

    Good that Leclerc has beaten Ericsson. I don’t think it necessarily shows that he’s better yet though. Ericsson made a big lock up and ran very wide. Clearly his own mistake, but shows the main reason why he was much slower. The last 2 qualifying sessions, Ericsson was quicker. And in both races, had a far better start too. Given Ericsson’s criticism for begin one of the worst on the grid (in the majority of people’s views it seems) and Leclerc’s hype, he needs to have a better start to his races and keep Ericsson behind him. I know he’s a rookie, but if Ericsson keeps looking better, I think we’ve either been under rating him or over rating Leclerc.

    1. @thegianthogweed But there was also that mistake from Leclerc in quali. Yet again. I don’t know was Ericsson on a flying lap or not but he arrived to the last corner soon after Leclerc’s accident. If he was on a flying lap then the yellow flags brought up by Leclerc surely ruined his lap.

      I’d also like to see Leclerc outperforming Ericsson with a clear margin, but I haven’t seen any indication of that so far. Sure he is a rookie and has a steep learning curve ahead, but somehow I expected more from him right from the get-go.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        14th April 2018, 8:59

        I guess that is a point and it could wall have ruined his first run.

        1. It will be interesting to follow Marcus Ericsson this year when he seems to have slightly better material. If you look at his career before F1 it does not indicate that he would be the worst, or even one of the worst drivers on the grid. The rating he is getting in forums like this one is probably unfair, and must be very hurting actually. In my opinion he shows a good fighting spirit and a good work ethic.

      2. Ericsson was on a fast lap. He claimed to lift of slightly and therefore lost time. But the stewards didn’t agree and gave him a 5 place penalty for tomorrow.

  9. Looking at strategy for tomorrow, is it possile for the soft-shod Ferraris and Mercs to finish this race by just stopping once for the mediums? And if they can’t make those last, there’s always the opportunity for pitting near the end for an ultrasoft sprint to the flag on low fuel.
    Merc have extra softs, while Ferrari have extra ultrasofts. This could be interesting, provided the race pace gap is much less than the gap in quali, of course.

  10. There’s plenty to watch for: can Kimi keep up with Seb, or will he be the rear gunner again? Can the Red Bulls get in the mix? Will the Toro Rossos pass the McLarens? Can Sauber hand the red lantern to Williams, in the battle of the all-whites?
    And the points struggle between Renault, Haas and Force India.

    1. McLaren is right up there in the midfield, it just too close a group that even a minor error can put you back far down.

    2. Kimi should bring his start skill back first. It’s more important not to lose place to Bottas in the 1st lap than challenge Vettel.
      I hope Red Bull didn’t overclocks Renault too much and risk everything.

      1. People always mentioning kimis cautious starts, well lets remember what usually happens when he has a good one (Barcelona, Baku and Singapore from last year)

  11. Yet again Hamilton sulks if it doesn’t go his way. World beating driver when his car is best in the field, but sulky & petulant when it’s slightly off the pace. Never see him drag a bad car around to a decent lap time he just gives up, walks away and blames everyone else. Such a shame because he’s actually a much better driver than that.

    1. Yet again a keyboard heroe constructs a narrative around a driver they don’t like. A shame as most commentators on Race Fans are better than that.

      1. Commenters even :)

        1. Sorry to disagree , have been watching F1 for over 30 years, and generally enjoy the sport and the spectacle, I have attend GP’ s all over Europe so please don’t accuse me of being a keyboard warrior ( maybe you choose to reflect t yourself with that comment ?) . In my opinion Hamilton has lost something having been in such a dominant car for several years, he had become more petulant and critical of others , out of respect for his fans and his team he should have completed the lap today and accepted he was not the quickest.

      2. To be fair the journalistic theme from the English speaking media is that when Lewis does something special it’s his talent and when Vettel does something the Ferrari must be quicker. I like Lewis but his fanclub in the media rub people up the wrong way.

        1. @bigjoe I think people hear what they want to hear. Sky UK were praising Vettel for his outstanding lap today, especially considering Raikkonen was on top all weekend!

          1. In fact Sky have been brown nosing Vettel so much lately it’s difficult to know where they end and he begins.

  12. I hope TAG Heuer last full race distance this time.

    With closer gap, all non big three teams should start practice towing too.

  13. Stunning, Sublime, a master at qualifying, oh wait….It’s Vettel, it must be the car advantage.

    1. Not sure why you’re surprised, it’s what people say about Hamilton all the time when he smashes it in qualifying.

      1. That’s not what I see in the headlines.
        ‘Lewis stunning pole’ versus ‘ Ferrari quickest in qualifying’
        The BBC today making excuses for Lewis – ‘Mercedes lacked performance – Hamilton was 0.58secs off pole’

        1. @bigjoe I overslept today and forgot about qualifying. I went online, checked the BBC Sports website had some breakfast and then suddenly remembered to watch qualifying.

          Reading your comments now made me realise that there was no mention of Vettel getting on pole. If Hamilton was on pole, I’d have ruined quali for myself by accidentally going on the BBC site but because it was Vettel, it wasn’t a top story! Whilst it is true that Mercedes lacked performance, should Lewis not be beating Bottas anyway? It seems both car and driver lacked performance to me!

          The bias they show has been annoying me this week when I tried to watch some of the Commonwealth Games and when I watched the Olympics 2 years ago – they only show the British people! “Here’s a British person doing a high jump. Good. Right now we’re going to watch a British person do some Judo. Sorted. Now a British person on a horse.” There is no context to anything because you don’t ever get to see the full competition!

          1. You all should see the headlines in Finnish media if you wan’t to know what biased really means. No matter what happens, Bottas and especially Räikkönen never do anything wrong.

          2. @petebaldwin

            here in the US, it’s the same way with international sporting events (Olympics, etc) that it’s all about US athletes. Media tend to play to the lowest common denominator and I’m sure in most countries, the majority of viewers want to see their own country’s athletes. Which gets frustrating for those of us who truly understand the different sports, and would prefer to see the best athletes performing at the highest level than dumbed down commentary and highlights featuring “our” athletes.

            Then again, those athletes (our own country’s athletes) do deserve air time – they’ve put in a lot of work over many years, often at great personal expense (countries are bad at supporting all supports and athletes equally), to represent their countries.

    2. I think over their careers Vettel has been the better qualifier.

  14. If Raikkonen continues this performance til mid-season will he remain in F1 till 2019? He’s arguably been quicker than Vettel so far this season. Minor balls-up in S3 today, very unlucky in Bahrain and in Aus. Would there be anyone better?

    1. Well, he certainly deserves another shot if he continues like this. However Ferrari might lose their shot at Ricciardo if they sign RAI. So they may favor a longer term narrative. But if RIC doesn’t impress this year, who knows.

  15. Hey look ma! Mercedes aren’t dominating, that’s what we wanted right? Oh wait, Ferrari are now …

    1. Yeah what domination it was in Australia and Bahrain. I’m sure they’ll be 40 sec up the road tomorrow too. *eyeroll*

      Funny excuses to whine about how it is all unfair that Mercedes domination for years after years is not wildly appreciated by fans.

  16. I think if Vettel wins tomorrow then its Ferrari and Vettel’s championships to lose. I’m quite surprised and downbeat by the result (as a Lewis fan) but credit where credit’s due. Vettel rescued victory from the jaws of defeat- literally in the final sector and it was an amazing demonstration of driving talent. But surely even at this point Ferrari must now be considered as the team to beat. Its a long season yet but I am reminded of 2014 when it took until Hungary for Hamilton to overturn the deficit to ROS after his spark plug retirement in AUS. VET and Ferrari could afford to play percentages for the rest of the season if VET delivers tomorrow IMO. And lets be honest Kimi won’t be given a fair shot and worse still sometimes he is his own enemy.

  17. whats the story with Ricciardo’ power unit failure. any penalties?

  18. A vew years ago, everyone was saying how Vettel was not a really good driver, it was just the Red Bull was so good. Can we put that to rest now? Vettel is a very good driver.

    1. No, because now they’ll say that the Ferrari is just so good and that Kimi is a washed up has-been.

    2. I think there is ‘almost’ universal acceptance that Vettel is a ‘very good driver’. However, I think what most people seem to doubt was whether his statistic match his talent. Vettel, on a purely statistical analysis is an extraordinary driver (as is Hamilton). But while Hamilton is viewed (especially by the British media) as an extraordinary driver both ‘on-track’ and statistically, it seems that Vettel is considered only to be the latter. If find this discrepancy confusing as their careers strike me as almost identical.

    3. Justin (@boombazookajd)
      14th April 2018, 17:05

      Anyone who says that Lewis or Sebastian aren’t good drivers are nuts. They are extremely talented drivers and are better than every single driver on the grid, bar non (yes, that includes Alonso).

      Lewis is phenomenal, always has been. Personally, I can’t stand the guy’s melodrama but he’s easily the best driver since Schumacher.

      Vettel is awesome, he whines a bit too much for my taste but he’s an exceptional driver as we saw in Bahrain. Not sure I am willing to say he’s better than Lewis but if Lewis has 9 out of 10 stars, Seb has 8.75.

  19. Let’s hope Mercedes doesn’t let Hamilton win.
    Vettel 3 wins or Rai, Bot, Ham 1 win….

    Maybe RedNull can luck one out.

  20. I just posted that, it’s a Cc, but I’d like to put it here as well.
    I have a question regarding Hamilton vs Verstappen in Bahrain.

    This is the vid from on youtube. First lap, 40 seconds.

    Alonso comes from far behind and Hamilton is sleeping.
    Then Hamilton realise it, fights back and it is wheel to wheel.
    Then Alonso gives him a little swipe to the left and Hamilton backed out of it
    by opening the steering wheel.

    Am I correct and if yes, where is the difference between Verstappen?

  21. Carlos Furtado das Neves
    15th April 2018, 0:08

    Ferrari (Sebastian Vettel) find (for now) the “Banzai mode” for quali.
    Straight line speed, and car set up that suits Vettel’s drive.
    Let’s wait and see if the strategy can change the “domination” of the Cavallino.
    Seb performance today give us the idea that the WCD is going to be hard for the Mercs to beat… But it’s only the earlier stages…

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