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Qualifying analysis - Rosberg fulfils Mercedes’ promise 14 Apr 2012

Pole sitter Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 13 April 2012 Timo Glock (GER) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 14 April 2012

Innovative and quick, the Mercedes F1 W03 was a hot tip for success following pre-season testing, but at the opening two rounds the 2012 Silver Arrow failed to shine. In Shanghai on Saturday, however, it finally bared its teeth, as Nico Rosberg stormed to his maiden Formula One pole position and the first for the team in its current form. But with the advantage of their ‘double DRS’ system dramatically reduced in the race, and tyre degradation still a potential Achilles’ heel, Sunday could be a very different story for Ross Brawn’s squad, as the likes of Sauber, Lotus, McLaren and Red Bull all look to steal their thunder. We take a team-by-team glance at the pre-race form book…

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 35.121s, P1
Michael Schumacher, 1m 35.691s, P3, will start P2

This was a very special day for Mercedes, marking the first time since Monza 1955 that their Silver Arrows had annexed the front row of a Grand Prix starting grid. Rosberg did a fantastic time that left him half a second clear and on pole for the first time in F1, as all of the leading runners bar Hamilton decided to save tyres and do only one run on Pirelli’s soft tyres as the ambient temperature dropped three degrees between Q1 and Q3. Schumacher was also on strong form, and though he was beaten to second place by Hamilton he took the place after the McLaren driver’s five-place grid penalty was applied. Mercedes’ big concern now, the possibility of some rain apart, is how their tyres stand up in the race after two events in which their degradation has been extremely high.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 35.626s, P2, will start P7
Jenson Button, 1m 36.191s, P6, will start P5

Once again Hamilton did a superb lap to split the Mercedes until his grid penalty dropped him from second to seventh. Button, however, did a lap on the soft tyre in Q1 and felt he had too much understeer in Q2, so adjustments were made for Q3 which were negated as the temperature dropped. Both men believe that they will have very strong race pace, and a good chance of fighting for the win.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 35.784s, P4, will start P3
Sergio Perez, 1m 36.524s, P8

Once again Sauber starred, and this time it was Kobayashi’s turn to be the man in the spotlight with an excellent lap that placed him fourth, then third when Hamilton’s penalty came into play. He said he’ll be realistic for the race, but realism in Sepang meant a possible victory. And rivals have already noted the Japanese racer’s excellent long-run pace, so watch the Swiss team carefully. Perez was disappointed with eighth, but like Button encountered unexpected understeer on the soft tyre, probably as a result of the falling temperature. Overall, however, the team are in great shape and haven’t had such a strong car since the C21 in 2001

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 35.898s, P5, will start P4
Romain Grosjean, no Q3 time, P10

Raikkonen said he was disappointed with his E20’s pace, and blamed that partly on the failure of updates to work here and the need to revert to the Malaysian set-up. Grosjean said he had mixed feelings after a terrible first run in Q2 obliged him to use up all his soft rubber and only just saw him make Q3 at Vettel’s expense. Ironically, Lotus go into the race less confident in the car than in the last two races, but starting higher up the grid.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 36.290s, P7, will start P6
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 36.031s, P11

Seventh and 11th counts as a disaster for Red Bull. Webber said his Q2 lap wasn’t bad (it was the fastest), but that the lap didn’t come together in Q3. Vettel made only tiny improvements in his three laps in Q2, and worse still said that there was no problem with his RB8 but that he just couldn’t get the final few tenths that he needed.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 36.622s, P9
Felipe Massa, 1m 36.255s, P12

Ferrari expected to struggle in Shanghai, and were not surprised by ninth for Alonso and 12th for Massa, who has looked more respectable this weekend. Alonso thought he was hurt in Q3 by a change in wind direction, while Massa said he was happier with his car than he was in FP3, but disappointed not to be higher up the grid.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 36.283s, P13
Bruno Senna, 1m 36.289s, P14

After FP3 Williams expected to struggle to make Q3 and had to be content with 13th and 14th as both drivers proved very evenly matched.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 36.317s, P15
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 36.745s, P16

Force India likewise were disappointed by their lack of expected speed, as Di Resta outpaced Hulkenberg. The Scot said he was happy with his lap and believes he’ll have good race pace, while the German said that the changed weather conditions since FP3 had made him feel less comfortable in his car.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 36.956s, P17
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 37.714s, P18

Yet a third midfield team lamented poor qualifying pace, as Toro Rosso took 17th and 18th places on the grid. Ricciardo said there wasn’t much wrong with his car but that it just wasn’t fast enough. Vergne was mystified by his relative lack of speed.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 38.463s, P19
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 38.677s, P20

Kovalainen admitted that a small error in the final corner probably cost him a couple of tenths, but was happy with his car’s balance. Petrov struggled to balance his, but said his Q1 lap wasn’t bad.

Marussia
Timo Glock, 1m 39.282s, P21
Charles Pic, 1m 39.717s, P22

Glock said he’d struggled massively with oversteer in FP3 and thus needed to acclimatise to revised adjustments in Q1. Pic was close to him once again, and overall the team felt that improvements brought to China have had the desired effect.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 40.411s, P23
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 41.000s, P24

De la Rosa heralded HRT’s best qualifying performance so far, while Karthikeyan said he was blocked on his first lap in Q1 and didn't set a good time on his first set of tyres. On the second set he flat-spotted one, but both he and de la Rosa were delighted to be well within the 107 percent rule.

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