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Qualifying analysis - Maldonado wins the waiting game 12 May 2012

Pole sitter Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams celebrates with hs Father Pastor Maldonado SR (VEN).
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27 is bought back to the pits after stopping on track after Qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 waves to the crowd.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Sauber C31 is pushed away during Qualifying.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 The Red Bull Racing RB8 of Sebastian Vettel (GER) in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Timo Glock (GER) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012 Narain Karthikeyan (IND) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 12 May 2012

After a bizarre Q3 session in which even the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher declined to set times in the name of tyre strategy, things got even stranger when Lewis Hamilton lost his pole position due to a rule infringement. Williams’ Pastor Maldonado thus starts from P1 on the grid for the first time in his F1 career, but what was really going on in Barcelona on Saturday? We examine the form book, team by team…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 21.707s, P1, will start P24
Jenson Button, 1m 22.944s, P11, will start P10

Hamilton described his 1m 21.707s lap as perfect, and waxed lyrical about finding his MP4-27’s sweet spot after a superb performance which appeared to have clinched his third pole of the season, and McLaren’s 150th overall. But he was told to stop his car on the slowdown lap, and later the stewards ruled that, in contravention of the regulations, that had been because it lacked sufficient fuel to return to the pits. He was thus excluded from the times, but will be allowed to start from the back of the grid. It was a crushing blow for the team. Button also had a torrid time, with understeer at high speed and a nervous rear end in the slow-speed corners, and could only manage 11th fastest time.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 22.285s, P2, will start P1
Bruno Senna, 1m 24.981s, P18, will start P17

Williams had looked good all weekend, and Maldonado didn’t put a foot wrong as he aced Hamilton in Q2 and then beat everyone but him in Q3. After Hamilton’s penalty, he was promoted to the pole, Williams’ first since Brazil 2010. Senna blotted his copybook again by spinning in Turn 12 as he tried to improve his time at the end of Q1.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 22.302, P3, will start P2
Felipe Massa, 1m 23.444s, P17, will start P16

Alonso said he was pretty happy with the way that the better upgrades brought from Mugello had performed, and that the car had “over-performed”. He has that quietly confident look about him. Massa was again in trouble, qualifying only 17th and complaining that he didn’t manage to get everything falling into place. He said he met a lot of traffic - “seven or eight cars” - on his second run in Q2.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 22.424s, P4, will start P3
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 22.487s, P5, will start P4

Grosjean recovered very well from the fuel pressure problem which stopped him running in FP3. Raikkonen admitted that he’d been fighting with the set-up all day, but said it was sorted for qualifying and that he’d made a few small mistakes which cost him third place. But the black and gold cars looked very good with fast and consistent pace on the soft rubber, and start as favourites after Hamilton’s penalty.

Sauber
Sergio Perez, 1m 22.533s, P6, will start P5
Kamui Kobayashi, No Q3 time, P10, will start P9

Perez said his C31 was much improved after he’d struggled a little in free practice, but believed he might have done better than sixth fastest in Q3. Nevertheless, it was another great performance from the Mexican. Kobayashi also looked good, but slowed on his in-lap in Q2 due to a hydraulic problem, and never got to run in Q3. He’ll thus start 9th. At the very least, points should be a strong possibility tomorrow.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 23.005s, P7, will start P6
Michael Schumacher, No Q3 time, P9, will start P8

Rosberg ventured out for a run in Q3 and wound up seventh, which he reckoned was the best that could have been expected. Schumacher elected to conserve tyres and did not complete a timed run, which means he can still choose which compound to start on tomorrow.

Red Bull
Sebastien Vettel, No Q3 time, P8, will start P7
Mark Webber, 1m 22.977s, P12, will start P11

Vettel ventured out twice in Q3, each time coming back to the pits before completing a timed run. He reckoned fifth was the best he could have aspired to today, so has saved rubber and can choose which compound to start on. Webber thought he’d done a decent job in Q2 and was being congratulated on a good performance when, 60 seconds later, he learned that he’d been bumped. He too, however, can start on what tyres he likes, so don’t rule the Red Bulls out of contention.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 23.125s, P13, will start P12
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 23.177s, P14, will start P13

On his final run in Q2 Di Resta finally got what he wanted after an aero change improved the balance of his car, and he just beat Hulkenberg, who said he was pretty satisfied with his final Q2 lap. Both are hunting for points tomorrow.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 23.265s, P15, will start P14
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 23.442s, P16, will start P15

Disappointment here, especially after Ricciardo’s performance in Bahrain. The Australian said that changes to the set-up hadn’t done what he’d hoped they’d do, while Vergne was happy to have out-qualified his team mate for the first time, but admitted that he’d hoped for something more from his machine.

Caterham
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 25.277s, P19, will start P18
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 25.507s, P20, will start P19

Petrov was pretty happy with his performance, and how it all came together, but admitted that there had been more to come which a couple of small mistakes prevented him from achieving. Kovalainen said much the same thing, but that a mistake in Turn Three had hurt his lap time.

Marussia
Charles Pic, 1m 26.582s, P21, will start P20
Timo Glock, 1m 27.032s, P22, will start P21

Pic said he was happy with the way his day went, and that he’d had a good qualifying even though the car isn’t yet 100 percent. Glock had a better day after his engineers solved many of his stability problems from yesterday, but he made a mistake in his first flying lap, and on his second he came upon Karthikeyan’s yellow flags in Turn Three.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 27.555s, P23, will start P22
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 31.122s, P24, will start P23

De la Rosa said he was very happy with his two qualifying laps, and that upgrades had worked well. Karthikeyan spun on his first lap, then when the car got back to the garage with flat-spotted tyres it was discovered that there was a problem with the mounting of the onboard camera so on safety grounds he couldn’t go out again. He didn’t meet the 1m 28.363s 107 percent cut-off, but will be allowed to start based on adequate practice pace.

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