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Qualifying analysis - can McLaren halt Vettel's winning streak? 16 Apr 2011

Cars line up at the end of the pit lane as the session is restarted.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 16 April 2011 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 16 April 2011 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 16 April 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 16 April 2011 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) F111.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 16 April 2011

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel once again dominated qualifying to take the top grid slot for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix. But with McLaren duo Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton right behind, and his own team mate Mark Webber languishing down in 18th, Vettel could be vulnerable to attack. We take a team-by-team look at how all the runners performed…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 33.706s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 36.468s, P18

Zero problems for Vettel, who played with the McLarens in Q2, when he said he felt uncomfortable and made a small mistake, before annihilating them in Q3 to take his third successive pole of 2011 and his 18th overall. Webber had KERS problems in the morning, and unfathomably was sent out on hard tyres in Q2 as the team underestimated the time left to get two runs in and he thus failed to get them fully warmed up. He starts 18th.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 34.421s, P2
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 34.463s, P3

Button went for two runs in Q3, believing after his pace in Q2 that he had a shot at pole, but Vettel soon disabused him of that notion. Hamilton, mindful of what happened in Malaysia, chose to harvest tyres and made only one run. Both felt their cars were a lot better after overnight set-up changes, and that they got the most out of them.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 34.670s, P4
Michael Schumacher, 1m 35.457s, P14

Mercedes made a welcome step forward this weekend. Rosberg got the lap he needed when Q2 resumed, jumping into Q3, but Schumacher didn’t make it. Rosberg said that the progress was good, but that they needed more.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 35.119s, P5
Felipe Massa, 1m 35.145s, P6

Alonso said he expected little more than fifth, and that he wasn’t going to race the new aero package that he alone tried on Friday. Massa, looking much more like his old self, was right on his team mate’s tail and thought things were better than they had been in Malaysia. The key to his performance was getting ahead of Perez on the shoot-out out lap at the resumption of Q2, which gave him a nice clear road.

Toro Rosso
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 36.158s, P7
Sebastien Buemi 1m 36.203s, P9

Toro Rosso did a fabulous job all through qualifying and had their best session in a long while. After 11 cars were within two-tenths of each other in Q1, they pulled it out in Q2 and Q3 for seventh and ninth places. Perhaps they were helped a little by the way Petrov’s problem affected others in Q2, but that’s racing.

Force India
Paul di Resta 1m 36.190s, P8
Adrian Sutil, 1m 35.874s, P11

Di Resta celebrated his 25th birthday with a brilliant performance to qualify eighth, making it through Q2 with ease and performing strongly on his sole Q3 run. Sutil was selected for the weighbridge early in Q2 and then got hampered by Petrov’s demise at the end of that session. He then spoiled his chances of making Q3 when he and Barrichello got into argy-bargy on the desperate out lap as Q2 resumed for its two final minutes.

Renault
Vitaly Petrov, no time, P10
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 36.611s, P16

Things could scarcely have gone more awry for Renault. They elected for just one run apiece for Petrov and Heidfeld in Q2, and the Russian did a lap that got him into Q3 and was on a faster one when a fire in his R31’s airbox stranded him out on the track with three minutes left to run. That brought out the red flag, which in turn meant there were only two minutes left in which to resume the session. Heidfeld did a good lap but was stymied by traffic once the track was green again, so as Petrov got through to Q3 but was unable to run (taking 10th on the grid), Heidfeld could only manage 16th. It’s going to be interesting in the midfield on the opening lap.

Sauber
Sergio Perez, 1m 36.053s, P12
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 36.236s, P13

Unusually, Sauber failed to get through to Q3. The flow of their Q2 runs was interrupted by Petrov’s problem, which was a shame as both drivers said their cars were much more driveable after set-up changes were made overnight. The pace was there, just not the luck to go with it.

Williams
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 36.465s, P15
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 36.956s, P17

Williams continued to struggle, but they were among those who were affected by the Petrov incident. Barrichello, running the standard exhaust, got into a ruck with Sutil at the resumption of Q2 which ruined both of their chances. Maldonado also failed to improve, and the team aborted both runs in order to preserve their option tyres for the race.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 37.894s, P19
Jarno Trulli, 1m 38.318s, P20

Lotus maintained their pace into qualifying, and Kovalainen made the most of a single-run strategy and said he was very happy. Trulli thought he got the most he could out of his T128, but said that the balance wasn’t quite right. Neither car had any reliability problems.

Virgin
Jerome D'Ambrosio, 1m 39.119s, P21
Timo Glock, 1m 39.708s, P22

Virgin got their act better honed on Saturday, as set-up changes made a big difference. Everything went right for D’Ambrosio, but Glock struggled on the hard Pirellis and hopes they will be better for him in the race.

HRT
Tonio Liuzzi, 1m 40.212s, P23
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 40.445s, P24

Though they fell back behind Virgin, HRT had a good day and Liuzzi’s ideal time would have been in the 1m 39s closer to Glock. Both the Italian and Karthikeyan reported that their second set of Pirellis did not behave as well as the first, generating understeer.

Pirelli
The tyre suppliers believe their soft compound should last around 13-14 laps, while the hard tyres should be on form for 19-20 laps, with the former around 1.5s per lap quicker. They expect the leading runners will opt for a two-stop strategy, but anticipate some teams could make one or three stops.

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