Round 16 at Shanghai International Circuit sees a hot and windy qualifying session. This is only the fourth time that Formula 1 has visited China and on each occasion, a different driver has won the Chinese Grand Prix. McLaren and Ferrari are, once again, the teams to beat, showing their pace during the practice sessions. However McLaren have never finished in the top two in China will the pattern continue this year?
Rosberg sets an early fast time, before Mark Webber takes the lead. Hamilton is out on track on the hard tyre option, putting in the fastest first sector of anyone by a couple of tenths of a second. Vettel takes the lead but Hamilton is still on an incredibly quick lap over the line, he s nearly 1.3 seconds ahead of Vettel and takes the lead.
The track is apparently improving as Alonso takes to the track and is 11 thousandths slower than Hamilton to take second place. Massa also takes to the track, and manages a time 6 thousandths faster than Hamilton to take top slot. Raikkonen then appears on track and puts in the quickest second sector of the qualifying session. The Ferrari looks to be struggling in the slower corners but looks to be on fire on the faster corners. Raikkonen puts in the quickest time of the session to take the lead, one tenth of a second ahead of his team-mate with a time of 1:35.692.
In the closing minute of the session, 16 cars are on track trying to improve their times. Most of the drivers show green sectors as they improve on their times. Button gets called to the weigh-bridge but makes it out in time to improve on his time and make it through to the second qualifying session. It s a woeful weekend for Renault as Fisichella puts in a poor time and finishes in 17th. While Barrichello just misses the cut for Honda. Davidson puts in a storming lap in his Super Aguri and is through to the next session.
Drivers knocked out in Q1:
Barrichello [Honda] 1:37.290
Fisichella [Renault] 1:37.456
Wurz [Williams] 1:38.218
Sato [Super Aguri] 1:38.218
Sutil [Spyker] 1:38.668
Yamamoto [Spyker] 1:39.336
The track is still improving as times get quicker and quicker. Both Red Bull and Toro Rosso are looking stronger than they have been all season with all four drivers making it through to Q2. Renault unofficially confirm that they have a wet setup on their cars as they are expecting it to rain during tomorrow s race.
Webber sets an early good time before being outpaced by his team-mate David Coulthard. The Ferrari of Massa takes to the track and takes the top spot. Vettel is continuing his good run of form, managing to score an early 6th place. Hamilton the puts in a time just behind Massa to go second, before Kimi Raikkonen takes half second chunk out of Massa s time to go top of the timesheet. Alonso goes third to complete an all Ferrari-McLaren top four lock-out as Massa gets called to the weigh-bridge.
The Honda of Jenson button looks to be struggling in the slow corners, however is finding pace elsewhere on the track and puts in some fighting times to put him in provisional 10th place with 3 minutes left to go on the clock. BMW are expected to do well but Heidfeld looks uncomfortable in 8th place.
The top four drivers are happy with their times the remaining 12 cars take to the track with just under 2 minutes to go in an attempt to improve their qualifying times. In contrast to Q1, drivers are struggling to improve on their previous times.
Rosberg fights the Williams and on his first hot lap, manages a poor 16th place. Button puts in a storming lap to grab tenth place, pushing Liuzzi into 11th, just ahead of his team-mate Vettel who is in 12th place. Kovalainen puts in PBs in sectors one and two before over-cooking the final corner and running off the track to end up in 14th place. Coulthard is impressive just four-tenths behind Alonso, the faster of the two McLarens, and four-tenths of a second ahead of team-mate Webber as both Red Bulls make it through to the final qualifying session.
Drivers knocked out in Q2:
Liuzzi [STR] 1:36.862
Vettel [STR] 1:36.891
Kovalainen [Renault] 1:36.991
Davidson [Super Aguri] 1:37.247
Rosberg [Williams] 1:37.483
The surprise of the session is Jenson Button who makes it through to Q3 whilst his team-mate was knocked out in Q1. Button lines up with everyone else, but on the first lap, he comes into the pits. Mechanics look at the car but nothing appears to be wrong and he goes out again into clear air.
McLaren and Ferrari found the harder tyre compounds were quicker this morning in free practice, whilst the majority of the other teams found the softer tyres suited their cars, so the McLarens and the Ferraris are both out on the harder tyre compound.
After around five minutes, Hamilton, Schumacher and Kubica come in for a new set of tyres none of the drivers are putting in hot laps, so it is assumed that the drivers are just scrubbing in the tyres. Alonso then comes in for another new set of hard tyres as Hamilton launches into his first flying lap of the session with a time of 1:36.610. The back end stepped out quick a bit during Turn 13, so it appears Hamilton may be able to put an even quicker time in later in the session.
Alonso puts in a flying lap with Raikkonen hot on his heels. Alonso s lap is not fast enough to beat the time of his team-mate, but Raikkonen manages a quicker time than Hamilton to take provisional pole. A few seconds later, the Ferrari of Massa crosses the line to snatch pole off his team-mate.
Around the 3-4 minute mark, all the drivers nip into the pits for a new set of tyres. A mechanic tweaks the front wing of Lewis Hamilton to change the aerodynamics on the car and help Hamilton find an extra tenth or two. Raikkonen narrowly avoids Heidfeld in the pit-lane as the German driver comes in for a new set of tyres.
The minor change of wing on Hamilton s car appears to have done the trick as Hamilton is nearly a quarter of a second faster than anyone else in the first sector on his flying lap. Sector 2 and he is up by just over four tenths of a second. Alonso is also on his hot lap but is unable to match Hamilton s sector times. Hamilton crosses the start-finish line with a time of 1:35.908 to take his sixth pole of the season. Alonso is unable to make the time up and manages fourth. Raikkonen crosses the line in second, just ahead of his team-mate Felipe Massa with 1:36.317.
Coulthard pulls out all the stops and qualifies in an impressive fifth place, half a second ahead of his team-mate Webber who qualifies in 7th. Schumacher also does well for Toyota to qualify in sixth place.
Final placings for Q3:
1. Hamilton [McLaren] 1:35.908
2. Raikkonen [Ferrari] 1:36.044
3. Massa [Ferrari] 1:36.221
4. Alonso [McLaren] 1:36.576
5. Coulthard [Red Bull] 1:37.619
6. Schumacher [Toyota] 1:38.013
7. Webber [Red Bull] 1:38.153
8. Heidfeld [BMW] 1:38.455
9. Kubica [BMW] 1:38.472
10. Button [Honda] 1:39.285