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Qualifying analysis - heavyweight Brawns biding their time? 18 Apr 2009

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix in qualifying parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 April 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 17 April 2009 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF109.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 17 April 2009 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai, China, Friday, 17 April 2009 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 18 April 2009

Jenson Button admitted that he was surprised not to do better than fifth on the grid for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, but the only driver with comparable fuel ahead of him was his fourth-placed team mate Rubens Barrichello. They respectively carried 659 and 661 kg starting weight. Polesitter Sebastian Vettel was on 644 kg for Red Bull and team mate Mark Webber, in third, on 646.5. Upstart Fernando Alonso pushed between the RB5s for Renault, with the lightest starting weight of 637 kg.

It will be no surprise for the top three on the grid to use the potentially vulnerable super soft Bridgestone tyres for their opening stints in the hope of pulling clear before pit stops around the 10-lap mark. The Brawns will likely run longer on their primes, as probably will sixth placed Jarno Trulli (664.5 kg), Nico Rosberg (650.5 kg), Kimi Raikkonen (673.5 kg) and Lewis Hamilton (heaviest of the all the top 10 qualifiers at 679 kg). Now, our team-by-team run down...

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 37.349s, P16/1m 36.184s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 37.330s, P15/1m 36.466s, P3

Both men were very happy with their performance as Vettel took his second pole and Red Bull’s first. The last time he started from the top slot, at Monza last year, he won. A question mark, however, hangs over the reliability of Red Bull’s driveshafts after problems for both cars today.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 38.003s, P19/1m 36.381s, P2
Nelson Piquet, 1m 36.464s, P5/1m 36.908s, P17, starts P16

Few doubted that Renault had opted for a low-fuel run, and the weights confirmed it. But Alonso’s was nonetheless a good performance since he only managed to run three laps in morning practice with his R29’s new interim diffuser before it caught fire briefly. He was thus obliged to fly blind into qualifying. Piquet didn’t have any of the new bits, and was disappointed to get stuck in Q1.

Brawn
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 36.642s, P10/1m 36.493s, P4
Jenson Button, 1m 36.463s, P4/1m 36.532s, P5

While Button was admitting to a measure of disappointment as his run of poles was interrupted, Barrichello’s was a great lap given his greater fuel load. They are well placed for the race.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 36.272s, P2/1m 36.835s, P6
Timo Glock, 1m 39.110s, P20/1m 36.066s, P14, starts P19

Trulli said he was disappointed with sixth, but has a good fuel load and can do a long opening stint. He said his TF109 lost grip between practice and qualifying as it had in Melbourne. Glock had a gearbox problem in practice - which necessitated a change - and was thus short on track time for qualifying. His car was tricky to drive and he was unable to progress beyond Q2.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 36.133s, P1/1m 37.397s, P7
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 36.560s, P8/1m 36.193s, P15, starts P14

Rosberg reckoned eighth was about right for the Williams FW31 right now, and said he struggled a little to get heat into his tyres. Otherwise, he was pleased and has a good strategy. Nakajima again disappointed as he failed to get a good car through to Q3.

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 36.568s, P9/1m 38.089s, P8
Felipe Massa, 1m 36.528s, P6/1m 36.033s, P13

Raikkonen was far from happy with eighth but said he got everything he could from his F60, which was hampered in Q3 because he no longer had any new tyres available. The machine is just not quick enough, period, and lacks grip. Massa admitted to a mistake on his second run in Q2, which prevented him from progressing to Q3. Whereas Raikkonen said he wasn’t sure, Massa said not having KERS was a definite handicap.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 36.330s, P3/1m 38.595s, P9
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 36.547s, P7/1m 36.032s, P12

McLaren again ran new aero parts - a revised floor and six-plane front wing - and Hamilton was pleased with what he called ‘pretty hardcore laps’ that were almost beyond the limit in Q1. He felt they had made progress as a McLaren got through to Q3 for the first time this year, and described it as the road to recovery. Kovalainen reverted to the old front wing for practice, but had some bitty laps in Q2 that left him down in 12th place.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 36.742s, P13/1m 39.921s, P10
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 36.834s, P14/1m 36.906s, P16, starts P15

Once again Buemi did a strong job, qualifying his Toro Rosso 10th. He said the STR4 was good on low fuel, but like Raikkonen, he’d run out of new option tyres by Q3. Bourdais made a mistake which left him down in Q1.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 36.702s, P11/1m 35.975s, P11
Robert Kubica, 1m 36.742s, P12/1m 36.966s, P18, starts P17

This was a really disappointing day for BMW Sauber. Heidfeld reported that his first lap of Q2 was the best he could get out of his F1.09, and the grip just was not there when he switched to his option tyres. Kubica ran all day without KERS, whereas Heidfeld kept it, and said there simply wasn’t any grip. A mistake in Turn 12 didn’t help his cause but was hardly instrumental in his 18th place.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 37.534s, P17/1m 37.669s, P19, starts P18
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 37.732s, P18/1m 37.672s, P20

Sutil and Fisichella recorded almost identical times in Q1, but had once again slipped to the back of the grid. The German struggled to find a good balance, but the Italian said his car was better in that respect than it had been the previous day. Lack of aero grip is still the big problem here.

David Tremayne