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Qualifying analysis - Lotus about to break through? 23 Jun 2012

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Red Bull Racing garage.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Luca di Montezemolo (ITA) Ferrari President talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia, Spain, Saturday, 23 June 2012 Charles Pic (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd8, European Grand Prix, Practice, Valencia, Spain, Friday, 22 June 2012

Red Bull and McLaren may have qualified on the front row in Spain, but both teams believe it could be their black and gold rivals who will pose the biggest threat come race day, despite Maldonado’s Williams separating Vettel and Hamilton from the two Lotus cars on the grid. We take a team-by-team look at the Saturday form in Valencia…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 38.086s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 40.395s, P19

Vettel did a brilliant job to equal the pole records of Jim Clark and Alain Prost - 33 - after changes to his car and new components flown in the previous night helped to tame it. Webber, however, had brake problems after a lap in FP3 and ran his three Q1 laps without KERS. Result: a lowly 19th place start position and a big race mountain to climb.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 38.410s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 38.801s, P9

Hamilton said he was surprised that changes between FP3 and qualifying meant that he was able to qualify second, though Rosberg and Mercedes later protested that he’d impeded them. The stewards disagreed. Button was only eight-tenths off Vettel and four off Hamilton, but that was sufficient to leave him only ninth. But that was better than he qualified in either Monaco or Canada, so reverting to Hamilton’s set-up had clearly helped for the weekend.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 38.475s, P3
Bruno Senna, 1m 39.207s, P14

Maldonado must like Spanish circuits. He couldn’t quite hang on to the prime start position here after going fastest with minutes to go in Q3, but third is a very strong placing for the Spanish Grand Prix winner. Senna showed flashes of speed all day, but said the balance wasn’t great and that he couldn’t put all his best sector times together.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 38.505s, P4
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 38.513s, P5

Lotus finally got the track temperatures in which their E20 could fly, and Grosjean thought he got everything out of his that it had to offer. Raikkonen said he found some good things in the set-up in FP3 that made his car easier to drive in qualifying. Vettel and Red Bull have had the advantage in qualifying, but they and McLaren expect the biggest race threat to come from the black and gold cars.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.623s, P6
Michael Schumacher, 1m 38.770s, P12

Rosberg was most upset that Hamilton didn’t get penalised for allegedly impeding him on his final run in Q3. But the stewards were adamant no action needed to be taken. Schumacher admitted that he just didn’t get either of his two Q3 runs together, but still only missed the cut by 0.068s such was the incredible closeness of the times.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 38.752s, P8
Paul di Resta, 1m 38.992s, P10

Hulkenberg was happy with a top-10 place, but it was understandable that there was an air of disappointment at Force India after both drivers had been very quick all day. The rise in temperature between FP3 and qualifying - 38 degrees to 45 - lost them a little grip, however. Di Resta looked a contender for a top-five position at one stage after being quickest for a while in Q2, but lost time with a locked wheel on his best lap in Q3. Nevertheless, this was the team’s most convincing performance of the season.

Sauber
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 38.741s, P7
Sergio Perez 1m 39.358s, P15

Sauber came away reasonably optimistic. Kobayashi said he got everything out of his C31 and was delighted to put three cars behind him after making the effort in Q3. Perez said his car’s balance wasn’t too predictable for qualifying, but that this was the result of changes intended to make it better for the race, so he’s feeling quietly confident of charging.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 38.707s, P11
Felipe Massa, 1m 38.780s, P13

Luca di Montezemolo’s presence chez Ferrari raised pulses, but this was one of those days when the bear got to do the eating. Alonso and Massa were very evenly matched, and missed out on Q3 by the narrowest of margins. Hamilton, for one, however, believes the red cars will be a major threat in the race.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 40.295s, P16
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 40.457s, P20

Caterham CEO Riad Asmat’s smile was bigger than he is after Kovalainen muscled into Q2 at Vergne’s expense. The new undertray and front wing package has worked well all weekend and allowed the Finn to push through, while Petrov just missed out as Caterham reclaimed the position it had taken ahead of Toro Rosso yesterday.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 40.358s, P17
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 40.203, P18

Major set-up changes put Toro Rosso back ahead of Caterham in FP3, but as the latter got their act together again in qualifying the roles were once again reversed. Both Ricciardo and Vergne said the STR7s just lacked general performance.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 42.171s, P21
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 42.527s, P22

De la Rosa was again delighted with HRT’s qualifying performance and to have pushed ahead of Marussia. Karthikeyan was closer to him today after some key set-up changes, and also felt that the team were moving in the right direction.

Marussia
Charles Pic, 1m 42.675s, P23
Timo Glock, Did not run, may start P24

Pic upheld Marussia honour on his own, but couldn’t better penultimate place. Glock didn’t run because of his stomach upset, but the stewards have agreed he can start the race on Sunday subject to being passed fit.

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