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Qualifying analysis - strategy set to overcome speed? 13 Apr 2013

Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus E21 in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 12 April 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9 stopped on track in Q2.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06 in the pits.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 13 April 2013

Qualifying in China was a mixed bag, as so many drivers were intent on saving their fragile soft-compound Pirelli tyres. Thus, particularly in Q3, each did only one lap, and two opted to run on the mediums instead. The race will clearly be all about the postponement of tyre degradation, and the individual strategies that teams apply. We take a team-by-team look at the Saturday form book…

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 34.484s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 34.861s, P4

Hamilton said he was really, really happy with his out lap and his qualifier, which kept him on top after he’d been fastest in Q1 and Q2. He also said that his margin over Raikkonen came as a surprise. Rosberg was unable to do his qualifying simulation in FP3 due to a hydraulic problem, so thought fourth was good in the circumstances.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 34.761s, P2
Romain Grosjean, 1m 35.364s, P6

Raikkonen said that though the upgrades brought here were only small, the car felt really good, but admitted that it lacked sheer downforce in the middle sector and could not have matched the Mercedes’ speed. Grosjean missed a lot of running time in FP3 because of undisclosed problems with his car, and was also late out for Q2, so in those circumstances, sixth overall was a real bonus.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 34.788s, P3
Felipe Massa, 1m 34.933s, P5

Alonso was pretty happy with his Ferrari all weekend and said it felt fine in Q3 especially. He believes he can fight for a podium, possibly more. Massa, too, was happy with the way his F138 behaved, albeit disappointed not to keep up his run of out-qualifying his team mate.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 35.998s, P7
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 37.199s, P16, will start P15

Ricciardo’s performance in Q2 came as a major surprise, not least to Force India. The Australian was delighted, especially as his last appearance in the top 10 was in Bahrain almost a year ago. Vergne was disappointed not to be able to run with his team mate, after the handling of his STR8 developed a problem in qualifying.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 2m 05.673s, P8
Sergio Perez, 1m 36.314s, P12

Button said that he was delighted to out-qualify both Red Bulls, even with a lap of over two minutes. The upgrades to the MP4-28 had not cured all of its problems, but they did alleviate them. He expects very high degradation for rivals who qualified on soft Pirellis that have already grained, and could be a dark horse after opting to qualify on the more durable mediums. Perez had been as quick as Button in FP3, but said he didn’t manage to find the pace when it mattered in Q2.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, no Q3 time, P9
Mark Webber, 1m 36.679s, P14, will start P22

Qualifying was a disaster for Red Bull. First they failed to put sufficient fuel in Webber’s car; he posted what would stand up for 14th fastest time, then was told to park before getting back to the pits on his in lap. Then Vettel had brake problems and flat spotted one of his medium tyres in what was set to be his only timed run of Q3, and thus could not do better than ninth on the grid. Soon after that, Webber’s car was found to possess less than the mandatory litre of fuel, so he will start at the back of the grid. At the heart of the problems, Vettel admitted, was lack of pace.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, no Q3 time, P10
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 37.990s, P18, will start P17

Hulkenberg was very happy with the progress Sauber made thanks to updates and said that good balance had been a factor in his speed during Q2 which helped him to 10th on the grid. Gutierrez said that Shanghai is a very challenging circuit to learn and on which to squeeze out a strong lap first time out in Q1, and that he was disappointed not to have made Q2 as a result of pushing a bit too hard.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 36.287s, P11
Adrian Sutil, 1m 36.405s, P13

Somewhere between FP3 and qualifying, Force India lost all their speed. A rise in temperature between the two sessions - from 32 degrees Celsius track and 25 ambient to 39 and 27 respectively - resulted in a loss of pace relative to their closest challengers, but with 11th on the grid Di Resta is best placed to make good use of his free choice on tyres, which could prove beneficial.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 37.179s, P15, will start P14
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 37.769s, P17, will start P16

Williams showed signs of an upturn, but though both drivers said they got the best from their FW35s they could not better 14th and 16th places on the grid. Maldonado was 10th within seconds of the finish of Q2, only to be pushed down as others improved, and the fractions they gained were sufficient to make the difference.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 38.780s, P19, will start P18
Max Chilton, 1m 39.537s, P20, will start P19

Bianchi looked as if he might get through to Q2 at one stage, before others improved, and said that a small mistake on his best lap cost him time. Chilton only got one run due to a water pressure problem, but despite that was happy to have achieved the goal of out-qualifying the Caterhams.

Caterham
Charles Pic, 1m 39.614s, P21, will start P20
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 39.660s, P22, will start P21

Both drivers said they had small, but undisclosed, problems in FP3 and qualifying. Allied to a change in behaviour of the CT03s as the temperature changed between the two sessions, that prevented them from getting off the back row of the grid.

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