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Qualifying analysis - Hamilton set to battle Red Bulls 06 Jul 2013

(L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 6 July 2013

The perfect weather in Germany on Saturday enabled the teams to complete their various programmes in FP3, and everyone went into qualifying satisfied that the tyre problems seen at Silverstone were unlikely to arise.

They didn’t, but a change in the Nurburgring's track conditions, associated with a rise in track and ambient temperatures, caught some teams by surprise as the track quickly evolved...

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 29.398s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 30.326s, P11

Hamilton said he was really struggling with the set-up of his W04 ever since he’d been fastest in FP1, and described FP2 and FP3 as “disasters”, but a lengthy session with the engineers produced a driveable car when it really mattered and two excellent runs in Q3 got the job done for his 29th career pole which brings him level with former Mercedes legend Juan Manuel Fangio’s tally. Rosberg was extremely unlucky when Mercedes got caught out by the pace at which the track gained speed in Q2, as he was in the pits as a flurry of times bumped him out of Q3. Hamilton said that his team mate had been so fast all weekend that he’d been expecting him to outqualify him, but it's the Briton that looks set to carry the main fight to the Red Bulls.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 29.501s, P2
Mark Webber, 1m 29.608s, P3

Both drivers said that their cars weren’t quite as driveable as they’d been in FP3, and that they felt they’d lost a little in the first sector, but they know they’ll be fast in the race and they stand as good a chance of winning as anyone after the long-run pace they demonstrated on Friday. Vettel also felt that they had narrowed the qualifying gap to Mercedes, so overall there’s strong optimism yet again in the camp.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 29.892s, P4
Romain Grosjean, 1m 29.959s, P5

The Lotuses looked quietly menacing all through qualifying, and fourth and fifth places on the grid, allied to the E21’s acknowledged kindness to its tyres, make Raikkonen and Grosjean very serious threats for the podium on race day.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 30.528s, P6
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 31.104, P16

Once again Daniel Ricciardo was on excellent form in the underrated Toro Rosso STR8, as he pulled a great lap out of the bag in Q2 to vault into Q3, where was qualified sixth for the second race in a row. Vergne, meanwhile, said he had been uncomfortable with his car all weekend and that the situation continued into qualifying.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 31.126s, P7
Fernando Alonso, 1m 31.209s, P8

Ferrari opted for what could be a very smart strategy, sacrificing their chance of what would probably only have been a third row start in favour of qualifying both cars on Pirelli’s medium rubber. Massa and Alonso will start from the fourth row but will likely be able to run a lot longer in their first stint than those ahead of them.

McLaren
Jenson Button, No time, P9
Sergio Perez, 1m 30.933s, P13

Button was delighted to snatch the final Q3 place as Rosberg got bumped out, and said he thought his Q2 lap was one of the best he’s done for a while. McLaren then played cat and mouse with Sauber deciding whether to set a time in Q3. In the end, they decided that they’d have needed to be sixth fastest to make that worthwhile, so opted not to run to enable themselves to start on medium tyres tomorrow. Perez encountered some handling problems in FP3 and changes made his car understeer more in the afternoon, when he admitted that he struggled to match Button.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, No time, P10
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 31.010s, P14

Hulkenberg really got the bit between his teeth in Q2 as he jumped up to a surprise ninth place and a Q3 run, as Sauber beat one McLaren, one Toro Rosso and both Force Indias against the current run of performance expectation. He didn’t bother with a timed lap in Q3, which means Sauber can start him on the medium tyres, too. Guttierez looked strong against Hulkenberg at times, but ultimately didn’t put a decent lap together when it mattered.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 30.697s, P12
Adrian Sutil, 1m 31,010s, P15

Di Resta had no nasty surprises after qualifying this time, but for once his Force India lacked pace relative to midfield rivals such as Toro Rosso, McLaren and Sauber. He said he hasn’t felt comfortable in his VJM06 all weekend, but that some wholesale changes helped for qualifying. Sutil was very disappointed with 15th, after striking trouble with his DRS which lost him half a second a lap in Q2.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 31.693s, P17
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 31.707s, P18

A KERS problem on Saturday morning set Pastor Maldonado back, though thankfully the issue wasn't too problematic. Overall though it was a disappointing day for Williams on their 600th race weekend with the both drivers feeling that they'd extracted everything from the FW35 and that it still lacks fundamental pace.

Caterham
Charles Pic, 1m 32.937s, P19
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 33.734s, P21

Pic said he was happy with his CT03’s balance, but was unlucky with a weighbridge selection and subsequent starter motor problem in Q1, which obliged the team to rush his second run. That was then affected by traffic. Van der Garde felt he made progress from Friday, but was troubled by understeer and had difficulty getting the temperature into his tyres.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 33.063s, P20
Max Chilton, 1m 34.098s, P22

Bianchi was feeling much better after a decent night’s sleep following his stomach upset on Friday, and was also happier with his Marussia’s balance by qualifying. He briefly pushed ahead of Pic before his countryman got back in front, but is optimistic of racing strongly against Caterham. Chilton was left disappointed, feeling that he didn’t get everything he could from his car.

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