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Qualifying analysis - are McLaren ready to challenge Red Bull? 09 Apr 2011

Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Director looks at the McLaren MP4/26 in parc ferme. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 9 April 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 9 April 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 150 Italia. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 9 April 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 9 April 2011 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Saturday, 9 April 2011

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel took his second successive pole position during qualifying in Malaysia on Saturday. But with Lewis Hamilton a very close second, McLaren seem to have made a lot of progress in Sepang and could pose a very real threat on Sunday. Tyres will be key, with a three-stop strategy likely for most drivers. The top ten will start on Pirelli's soft compound, which is over a second a lap quicker than the hard but which is expected to last ten laps at most. We take a look at how all the runners performed ahead of what should be a fascinating race…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 34.870s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 35.179s, P3

No problems for either of the Red Bull boys, as their KERS systems worked and the rhythm that Vettel in particular had been lacking all weekend came to him exactly when he needed it. Both of them readily admitted, however, that without the KERS on their RB7s for the first time in qualifying, they wouldn’t have beaten the McLarens to pole. Now their fight will come down to strategy and tyre conservation on Sunday; thus far Red Bull have looked the strongest in long-run simulations.

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 34.974s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 35.200s, P4

Hamilton came so close to taking his first pole since Canada last year, only to lose out by a much smaller margin than he had in Melbourne. He said he’d had a small problem on one corner, without which he might just have made it. But he also admitted that he couldn’t be disappointed with such a strong second. Button said he wished Q2 had been Q3, as he was fastest in that session; but he hurt his tyres too much on the out lap, and had a tad too much oversteer just when it really mattered.

Fernando Alonso, 1m 35.802s, P5
Felipe Massa, 1m 36.251s, P7

Ferrari fell back on a football metaphor, admitting that right now they are on the defensive. The 150° Italia simply isn’t quick enough just yet, so their strategy is all about minimising their disadvantages.

Nick Heidfeld, 1m 36.124s, P6
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 36.324s, P8

Sixth and eighth places were pretty good for Renault after Friday morning’s dramas, and Heidfeld felt he got the maximum out of the R31 in Q3 after a slight dip in Q2. He got the perfect lap in to jump to sixth late in that final session, while Petrov said he was also quite satisfied with the way things went for him.

Nico Rosberg, 1m 36.809s, P9
Michael Schumacher, 1m 37.035s, P11

This was a disappointing qualifying session for Mercedes after the pace they’d shown throughout the weekend. Ironically, Rosberg’s late Q2 improvement bumped Schumacher, whose DRS wing was not functioning properly, and then the same problem affected Rosberg in Q3.

Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 36.820s, P10
Sergio Perez, 1m 37.528s, P16

Kobayashi was quite happy with qualifying, even though he didn’t improve on his last set of new soft tyres in Q3. Perez, however, was disappointed that he didn’t get the best out of his last set of Pirellis in Q2, and thus failed to join the team mate he’d been matching all weekend.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi 1m 37.160s, P12
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 37.347s, P13

Buemi had a scare when part of the let-hand sidepod bodywork blew off in Q1, but a new component was quickly fitted and overall he was happy with his own performance as he improved lap by lap. Alguersuari also thought he got the maximum from his STR6.

Force India
Paul di Resta 1m 37.370s, P14
Adrian Sutil, 1m 37.593s, P17

Once again di Resta put in a great performance, this time outqualifying his team despite two spins early in Q1. He was rightly pleased with himself, and felt with the team that they’d got more out of the VJM04 than they’d expected to. Sutil said his car was okay in Q1, but he experienced some more downshift problems in Q2.

Rubens Barrichello, 1m 37.496s, P15
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 38.276s, P18

Williams underperformed in qualifying, simple as that. They took it on the chin, while admitting that the FW33 lacked the pace it had shown in Melbourne and in free practice here.

Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 38.645s, P19
Jarno Trulli, 1m 38.791s, P20

Lotus’s pace all through Q1 had both Kovalainen and Trulli really enthused as the T128 proved very quick and reliable. Both drivers believe they can mix it in the midfield on race pace.

Timo Glock, 1m 40.648s, P21
Jerome D'Ambrosio, 1m 41.001s, P22

Glock reported problems in FP3 which prevented him getting his MVR-02 working as it had yesterday, but was happier with it again in Q1, while D’Ambrosio was very pleased with his qualifying and thought he did a much better job than he had in Melbourne.

Vitantonio Liuzzi, 1m 41.549s, P23
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 42.574s, P24

No problems for HRT in getting both cars into this race, as the 107 percent cut-off was 1m 43.516s. Karthikeyan ran later than Liuzzi in Q1 and was four-tenths ahead for a while, but later flat spotted his second set of tyres in Q1, which ruined his chances thereafter. Meanwhile, the Italian made a big improvement on his late second run to suggest that when the F111 has new parts in China it could offer a serious challenge to Virgin.

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