Maiden Pole for Rosberg in China
Nico Rosberg flew to his, and the modern incarnation of Mercedes’, first ever pole in Shanghai with a blistering 1 minute 35.121s. Lewis Hamilton went second fastest, half a second adrift although he aborted his final run on fresh tyres after it was clear he wouldn’t improve his position. That may have been a mistake as his initial time was posted on a scrubbed set of tyres and its those that he’ll now have to start the race on. He also takes a grid penalty in to the race after changing his gearbox, meaning he’ll drop to seventh on the grid. That also means third fastest Michael Schumacher moves up to make it an all Mercedes front row.
With Mercedes’ Double DRS cleared by stewards on Thursday, the outfit exploited it to the full on Shanghai’s long straights. However, Nico Rosberg still pulled a perfect lap out of the bag in order to overhaul McLaren, the result of which saw him out of the garage and off to be weighed while his rivals still lapped the track. However, on the form of the first two races where they’ve suffered heavy tyre degradation, it remains to be seen what Mercedes can do with their front-row grid position.
The day’s glory belonged to Mercedes but it may be Sauber who will be happiest as Kamui Kobayashi went an astonishing fourth quickest. On the back of their race form, Sauber may be set to go one better than they did in Malaysia.
Shock of the day was Sebastian Vettel’s failure to get through to Q3. The Red Bull driver had switched to the team’s early pre-season testing exhaust configuration this weekend and must be left questioning the wisdom of that decision as team mate Mark Webber starts the race five places ahead of him.
No real disasters but it feels like an opportunity missed for Jenson Button. I suppose half a second behind Hamilton is fairly normal for Button but in this case it sees him start behind the Mercedes’ pair, Kobayashi and Kimi Raikkonen when he would have been thinking about exploiting Hamilton’s grid penalty to the fullest. Instead, only Mark Webber will separate the McLarens.
There should be plenty of overtaking in China so the final result could bear little relation to the starting grid. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mercedes failed to score points if they suffer from tyre degradation as much as they have in the first two races. Instead, with Kobayashi starting third it’s Sauber, who I have felt have the race pace to win but not the qualifying pace to put them in a position to do so, who could take victory this weekend.
Qualifying Lap Times
|7. Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1:36.290|
|10. Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||no time set|
|Q2 cut-off time:||1:35.982|
|11. Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1:36.031|
|15. Di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.317|
|16. Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.745|
|17. Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:36.956|
|Q1 cut-off time:||1:36.933|
|18. Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:37.714|
|23. De la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:40.411|
107% time: 1:42.931
|Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3|
|Rosberg||25.087 s||Schumacher||28.474 s||Hamilton||41.845 s|
|Webber||25.125 s||Webber||28.539 s||Kobayashi||41.904 s|
What are your predictions for the race? Who will win? Who should have done better in qualifying? Can Kobayashi win tomorrow?
Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas