Qualifying analysis - Red Bull run riot 06 Oct 2012
Red Bull suggested on Friday that nobody would dominate at Suzuka, then proceeded to decimate their opposition in qualifying. The RB8s were in a class of their own, leaving a slightly breathless McLaren to struggle in their wake and the rest to fight amongst themselves.
Conditions were once more sunny and dry, and the frontrunners soon switched to the soft Pirelli after running the hard in Q1. There were a few incidents of impeding, alleged and otherwise, and for two hours afterwards Vettels pole hung in the balance before the stewards reprimanded him for impeding title rival Fernando Alonso. A spin by Kimi Raikkonen towards the end of Q3 also prevented some from improving their times.
The race will be a very tough one, with a particular premium on how well drivers can conserve their tyres as degradation is expected to be very high on the soft compound. We take a team-by-team look at the Saturday form
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 30.839s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 31.090s, P2
Neither Vettel nor Webber had any problems and said that their RB8s simply got better as the sessions continued. Vettel said his lap was almost perfect, while Webber said he was very happy to make the front row even though there were a couple of places where he might have picked up a little more pace. Rivals are expecting Red Bull to walk away based on qualifying form.
Jenson Button, 1m 31.290s, P3, will start P8
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 32.327s, P9
Button thought that his two laps in Q3 were pretty reasonable and said that his MP4-27 felt good, and thus was unable to put his finger on why he was four-tenths of a second adrift of the Red Bull. Hamilton lost some time when Raikkonen spun, but his overriding problem was understeer initially, which changes turned into oversteer before the team made a hasty reversion to their Friday set-up. As he lined up ninth, Hamilton described it as a disaster.
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 31.700s, P4, will start P3
Sergio Perez, 1m 32.022s, P6, will start P5
Sauber bounced back to Spa form after their disappointment in Singapore, with Kobayashi and Perez looking very strong all day. The former rose superbly to the occasion of his home Grand Prix, but admitted that on his last run he lost time after accidentally switching off the DRS when he came upon the yellow flag for Raikkonen. Perez said that his last run wasnt perfect. Nevertheless, Sauber are in great form for the race, with a car that is historically kind to its tyres.
Romain Grosjean, 1m 31.898s, P5, will start P4
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 32.208s, P8, will start P7
Lotus did well to turn things around after their difficulties yesterday, and got both E20s into Q3. Grosjean was happy with fifth but thought that could have been fourth with a slightly cleaner run through the first sector; as it transpired, Buttons penalty moved him up anyway. Raikkonen had a rear-end problem through most of FP3, but got things together in qualifying until he spun in the Spoon Curve on his final attempt in Q3.
Fernando Alonso, 1m 32.114s, P7, will start P6
Felipe Massa, 1m 32.293s, P11, will start P10
Alonso thought he could have made the top four but lost out under the Raikkonen yellows, and subsequently complained that Vettel had also impeded him. He was seventh fastest, but will start sixth after Buttons penalty. Massa looked good for much of FP3 and qualifying and was happy with his cars balance right up until the moment when they fitted a set of softs for his final run in Q2. Then he found that the front-end grip had gone away and lost out on Q3 by thousandths of a second.
Nico Hulkenberg, No Q3 time, P10, will start P15
Paul di Resta, 1m 32.327s, P12, will start P11
Hulkenberg did a fantastic job to get through to Q3 after shunting his car in Degner 2 in FP3, and the team then took a strategic decision to save tyres so he didnt bother to set a time in that final session in order to open up options for the race. Unfortunately, the German gets a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, dropping him from 10th to 15th. Di Resta got caught up in traffic and locked a wheel, and while that might have cost just a tenth that was sufficient to deny him passage into Q3.
Michael Schumacher, 1m 32.469s, P13, will start P23
Nico Rosberg, 1m 32.625s, P15, will start P13
Given his 10-place grid penalty from Singapore, Schumacher opted for an aggressive approach to qualifying with a single Q1 run on the prime tyre, and a single Q2 run on the option. He thought he might have made it to Q3, but said he was uncertain of what Hamilton was doing at a crucial point. Rosberg said his weekend and qualifying had both been difficult and disappointing.
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 32.512s, P14, will start P12
Bruno Senna, 1m 33.405s, P18, will start P16
Qualifying was deeply disappointing for Williams, whose FW34 looked strong on this downforce track. Maldonados car lost its balance at the crucial point and couldnt make it to Q3, while Senna was brutally blocked by Vergne just when he seemed set to make it easily into Q2. They should be strong in the race, however.
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 32.954s, P16, will start P14
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 33.368s, P17, will start P19
Ricciardo said he was very happy to beat his team mate after another close battle, but Vergne was unhappy when his STR7 lost its balance, and a lot of speed, in the high-speed corners. Explaining the incident with Senna, he said that he had been caught between a rock and a hard place, trying not to catch Glock while working up to his own fast lap, yet anxious not to impede the Brazilian. In the end he did the latter inadvertently, and was given a three-place grid penalty.
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 34.657s, P19, will start P17
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 35.432s, P23, will start P22
Caterhams troubles continued in FP3 when Kovalainens CT01 lost its fuel filler flap. But otherwise the Finn was happy with the way things went. So was Petrov once they had figured out that loss of yesterdays good balance was down to tyre temperatures failing to build up as well as they had then. Changes helped the car for qualifying, but the Russian admitted that a mistake on the exit to the Spoon Curve cost him a lot of time and places.
Timo Glock, 1m 35.213s, P20, will start P18
Charles Pic, 1m 35.429s, P22, will start P21
Glocks days got off to a bad start with an oil pressure problem on his Cosworth engine which limited his running. That sent him blind into qualifying but guestimates to match set-up to track temperature worked out quite well as he did one flying lap. Pic was very close to his team mate on his first visit to the track, and said he was reasonably happy.
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 35.385s, P21, will start P20
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 36.734s, P24
De la Rosa got two great laps in which left his HRT ahead of a Marussia and a Caterham, but after going well in FP3 Karthikeyan spun and damaged his new floor and thus had to rely on an old one for qualifying.
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