Rosberg roars into life in China
Nico Rosberg has had a great qualifying session in China AP Photo/Andy Wong
Following on from a brilliant start to the Championship in both Australia and Malaysia, the field has moved to the Shanghai International Circuit for the Chinese GP.
Practice was again dominated by Mercedes and McLaren , with Lewis Hamilton being quick in both conditions, whilst Red Bull were consistent on the long runs.
Once again though, Ferrari looked far from the race winning pace Fernando Alonso showed in the rain at Sepang. Felipe Massa finished 18th in FP3.
For this qualifying session Hamilton was given a five place grid drop from where he finishes today, after a change of gearbox.
So in the hazy, polluted air of Shanghai, qualifying got under way with Felipe Massa going out early in an obvious sign of Ferrari’s lack of pace, and his lack of performance.
McLaren went out early also with a long hard compound run in mind. The hard compound tyre at Shanghai is about 0.7 seconds slower than the softer compound. Would be one of the biggest gaps on the calendar.
An interesting development this weekend is the divide between the aero packages used by Vettel and Webber. Webber running with the newer technology found himself 0.23 seconds quicker than his teammate after the first run, and also on top of the leader board.
With the pressure mounting on Ferrari once again, both drivers went out on their second runs with the soft tyre, with Massa taking top spot with 5 minutes to go, with Perez eclipsing that time and taking 1st spot.
So the first to fall were Vergne, Kovalainen, Petrov, Glock, Pic, De La Rosa and Karthikeyan.
Once again the Australian Daniel Ricciardo eclipses teammate Jean Eric Vergne in qualifying, another big confidence booster for him.
With the first 17 cars grouped within less than a second of each other in Q1, this session promised to be something special.
So after the first round of runs, the two Mercedes were up top, with Rosberg on top. Hamilton followed, with Raikkonen and Kobayashi making up the top 5.
Both Red Bull drivers on the softer compound tyres were far less comfortable than they were on the harder compound tyre. They found themselves 6th and 9th after their first runs.
Felipe has looked like he has made gains with his car this round, with him finishing in 12th, but only 0.5 outside the fastest time, which was funnily enough set by Mark Webber.
In an extraordinary last couple of minutes, Webber came alive to set the fastest time, but teammate Vettel, who had pole in the last three races in China found himself outside the top 10 who were grouped by only 0.3 seconds. The fight for pole would be immense.
The last guys to fall were Vettel, Massa, Maldonaldo, Senna, Di Resta, Hulkenburg and Ricciardo
So if there was ever a time for Webber to strike with a race win, it would be here in China. Vettel not in the top 10, poor race pace of the Mercedes, and Hamilton having a 5 place grid drop, pole must be achieved.
With many of the teams using two sets of softs in Q2. Rosberg was half a second up on Hamilton, Schumacher and Raikkonen. It was a brilliant lap, and it completely blew away the competition, with Rosberg parking the car and heading up to the weigh bridge after a satisfying Saturday.
The one run drivers failed to ignite the session, with Webber finishing 7th, in a very inconsistent car. He though, will jump up to 6th, with Hamilton taking his grid drop.
The final standings were Rosberg, Hamilton, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Raikkonen, Button, Webber, Perez, Alonso and Grosjean.
It’s shaping up to be a phenomenal race. A front row lockout for the Mercedes due to the penalty of Hamilton is a great advantage for them to have, but so far there race pace has been dreadful, and they have only one Constructors point after the two races.
With Button, Webber and Hamilton in 5,6,7 respectively on the grid, they will definitely have the speed to get the win, but can they get past guys like Raikkonen and Kobayashi, who both did a sterling job in qualifying?
So many questions that will all be answered in an action packed race.