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Qualifying analysis - surprises abound, but Red Bull still on top 07 Sep 2013

(L to R): Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing, pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138 leads Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Practice, Monza, Italy, Friday, 6 September 2013

Conditions at Monza were perfect as the drivers took to the track on Saturday afternoon to qualify for Sunday’s Formula 1 Gran Premio d’Italia 2013. But whilst it was not a great shock to see the Red Bulls locking out the front row, there were plenty of surprises elsewhere with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg grabbing third on the grid and both Lotus’s and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton failing to get out of Q2. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday’s action…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 23.755s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 23.968s, P2

Red Bull had a problem free run in all three qualifying sessions, and Vettel was extremely happy to take his fourth pole of the season on a track where, statistically, it has proven to be more important over the last 13 years than it is at Monaco. Webber wasn’t unhappy, either, and said that Vergne’s last-minute off at Parabolica made no difference to his overall position on the front row. In dry conditions they look extremely quick, but if there is rain on race day - as many are predicting - then their perfect weekend could be in jeopardy.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 24.065s, P3
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 25.226s, P17, will start P16

Hulkenberg admitted that he had no idea where his third fastest lap time came from, especially as he had struggled so much yesterday, but said that his C32 just got better and better as qualifying progressed. Gutierrez was naturally disappointed to be so many places behind his team mate when, overall, their pace hasn’t been that far apart this weekend.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 24.132s, P4
Fernando Alonso, 1m 24.142s, P5

A plan to have Massa tow Alonso around backfired when the Spaniard was released too late from the pits, though he denied that he was unhappy about this afterwards, saying that he was pleased to be in range of the Red Bulls. Still, starting fifth when a front row position might just have been possible hardly counts as cause for celebration, especially as he starts not only behind team mate Massa, but also behind Hulkenberg’s Ferrari-engined Sauber. If Alonso is to stay in the title hunt, he must make up positions in the race.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 24.192s, P6
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 24.803s, P12

Rosberg lost most of FP3 with a hydraulic problem, and said that understeer made him uncomfortable all through qualifying, so he did well to qualify in P6. Hamilton went off exiting the Parabolica on his first run in Q2 and was later impeded by Sutil, before admitting that he drove “like an idiot”. He was momentarily in Q3, until the McLarens’ improvement bumped him out.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 24.209s, P7
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 28.050s, P10

Both cars were quick throughout qualifying, but Ricciardo later rued the plan to do two runs in Q3 as he thought the Hulkenberg approach of a solitary run with less fuel could have put him fifth. Vergne looked good, until he did what Hamilton did and slid off at the exit of Parabolica.

McLaren
Sergio Perez, 1m 24.502s, P8
Jenson Button, 1m 24.515s, P9

Both drivers felt that they got the most that the MP4-28 had to offer, but while McLaren were happy to get both cars into Q3, there were thoughts that sitting out the session might have conferred greater strategic advantages for the race. We’ll never know.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 24.610s, P11
Romain Grosjean, 1m 24.848s, P13

Lotus put the long wheelbase E21 away overnight, as Raikkonen’s car was reverted to standard specification, but had their worst qualifying session of the season. The circuit just didn’t suit the car, and both drivers suffered from lack of grip and failed to make Q3.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 24.932s, P14, will start P17
Paul di Resta, 1m 25.077s, P16, will start P15

Sutil qualified a disappointing 14th but got dropped three places for impeding Hamilton at the end of Q2. Di Resta had to recover from a crash at Parabolica in FP3 caused by brake disc failure, and like his team mate the Scot struggled to get the VJM06 set up for single lap performance. There’s little doubt that the change in tyre specification since Nurburgring has cost the team some speed.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 25.011s, P15, will start P14
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 25.291s, P18

Maldonado said that being sent to the weighbridge in Q2 hurt his chances of making Q3, while Bottas thought that he’d done a strong lap and was perplexed that the pace just wasn’t there on the clocks.

Caterham
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 26.406s, P19
Charles Pic, 1m 26.563s, P20

Once again Van der Garde upstaged team mate Pic, albeit by a small margin. The Dutchman’s car wasn’t so well balanced in FP3 but was better in qualifying, whereas the Frenchman’s was the other way round.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 27.085s, P21
Max Chilton, 1m 27.480s, P22

Bianchi reasserted himself over Chilton after yesterday’s problems, but the Englishman nevertheless had one of his best qualifying sessions of the year as he was respectably close to the well-regarded Frenchman.

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