Nico Rosberg’s managed to take his first pole position of the season after a dramatic qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix today.
With the return to the old style 2015 Qualifying and a nearly dry track the ingredients were there for a great Saturday once again. And it didn’t take long for the action to begin. The shock from Q1 though was that current world champion Lewis Hamilton will start in last place. He failed to set a time in the first session due to an issue with his hybrid system which left him down on power. Add onto this his 5 place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, and Hamilton will be starting last on the grid.
The current world champion remained positive though in the face of adversity, looking to the race already. “You can overtake here; the tyres won’t last as well. I’ll give it everything I’ve got.” One of the key advantages he has is several sets of new, fast tyres he can use in the race.
Meanwhile, his team mate Rosberg is set for an interesting race on a different strategy to those around him. The German took a gamble and was able to get into Q3 on the soft tyres. Meaning while the others start on the Supersofts round him, Rosberg will be on the harder compound tyre.
“I would think it would be a good thing for sure,” Rosberg said in the press conference regarding his tyre gamble for tomorrow, “To start with that tyre [soft] and maybe give me a bit of an advantage over the others.”
Lining up alongside Rosberg in 2nd on the grid is the Red Bull of Daniel Riccardo, who pulled a stunning lap out of nowhere it seemed to get his first front row start this season. The Red Bull driver seemed optimistic about his chances for tomorrow. And even Team Principal Christian Horner had no idea where the pace had come from.”Where on earth that came from? I’m quite shocked actually.”
It was perhaps a more frustrating session for Ferrari. They have looked to be the team to challenge Mercedes throughout the weekend so far. And Kimi Raikkonen even had provisional pole for a while. However, on their last flying laps both Raikkonen and his team mate Sebastian Vettel made costly mistakes in the last sector of the lap. Meaning the pair have to settle with the second row of the grid. With Raikkonen third ahead of Vettel.
“I wasn’t happy with the lap, I made a couple of small mistakes here and there that cost me quite a lot of time.” A rather despondent Vettel told the media.
Valteri Bottas brought some joy to Williams on Sir Frank’s 74th birthday today, with 5th on the grid for tomorrow. He’s followed by the other Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat, the Force India of Sergio Perez, and the two Toro Rosso’s of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.
Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten, though he failed to set a time in the Q3 session. The left front tyre came loose from his Force India in the dying moments of Q2. And while Hulkenberg had done enough to be in the top ten. He could not get the car back to the pits to take part in it. He was also hit with a three place grid penalty for an unsafe release regarding this incident, meaning he will start 13th tomorrow.
Q2 was red flagged and the session ended prematurely, meaning those in the knockout zone were unable to improve. Resulting in some very unhappy drivers. One of the biggest casualties of Q2 were the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, who now line up 13th and 12th respectively. McLaren had sent both of them out on their first run in the session on used tyres. They were set to complete their real flying laps on new supersofts when the session was red flagged and brought to a close.
Alonso was optimistic about what the team could have achieved today. “Both McLarens had the potential to be in Q3, we didn’t use the new tyres, the full engine power, we were waiting on that final lap and we never started it.”
Hulkenberg wasn’t the only driver to cause a red flag though. In Q1 Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein caused a red flag by crashing on the main straight. He opened up his DRS and was caught out by a bump in the circuit followed by a damp bit of track. Resulting in him hitting the wall. He failed to set a time previous to this and as a result will start 21st for the race tomorrow.
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:35.402
2. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:35.917
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:35.972
4. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:36.246
5. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:36.296
6. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:36.399
7. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:36.865
8. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:36.881
9. Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:37.194
10. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, No time set (3 place grid penalty for unsafe release)
11. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:37.347
12. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:38.826
13. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:39.093
14. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:39.830
15. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:40.742
16. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:42.430
17. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:38.673
18. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:38.770
19. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:39.528
20. Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:40.264
21. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, No time set
22. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, No time set (5 place grid penalty for changing a gearbox)
Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas