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Qualifying analysis - Hamilton and Red Bull shine in Shanghai rain 19 Apr 2014

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing, pole sitter Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB10.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F14 T.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams FW36.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 (L to R): Bradley Joyce (GBR) Force India Race Engineer and Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Kevin Magnussen (DEN) McLaren MP4-29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice, Shanghai, China, Friday, 18 April 2014 Adrian Sutil (GER) Sauber C33.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Caterham CT05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Chinese Grand Prix, Qualifying, Shanghai, China, Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rain affected all three qualifying sessions in China. The blue-marked Pirelli wet tyres were necessary in Q1, but thereafter Q2 and Q3 mainly required the green-marked intermediate rubber, though some elected to gamble on running the blues at times. All the quick times came on the intermediate tyre - and once again it was Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes that led the way. We take a look at how each team fared in Shanghai on Saturday...

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 53.860s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 55.143s, P4

Changes overnight to Hamilton’s car were rendered academic when it rained, but he and Rosberg were happy to sit out FP3 to conserve rubber. Subsequently the Briton dominated each qualifying session and never looked like losing his third pole position of the season. It was his 34th overall, which makes him the new British record holder and fourth on the all-time list. Now he faces going into a dry race with untried settings aimed at reducing understeer and graining, but he sounded pretty chipper while rating his chances. Rosberg however struggled uncharacteristically and could only manage fourth as he complained of lack of feel in the brakes. He even spun exiting Turn 16 after figuring he had nothing to lose and pushing too hard through the final turn.

Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 54.455s, P2
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 54.906s, P3

The wet weather favours Red Bull, and both Ricciardo and Vettel looked menacing at times. The world champion had complained about a slipping clutch and lack of boost in FP3, but had nothing but praise for his new team mate and said that he’d been outqualified fair and square. Ricciardo, in turn, said that he’d struggled throughout and hadn’t thought his run particularly good, but he got two laps out of a new set of inters in Q3, and the second was enough to get him between Hamilton and Vettel.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 55.657s, P5
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 56.860s, P11

Fifth place on the grid marked an improvement for Ferrari, but again the weather flattered them. While Alonso said he felt they had taken a step forward with aerodynamic upgrades and revised engine settings, Raikkonen said that he wasn’t happy with his car’s balance and that its handling was generally inconsistent. A podium is unlikely without a slice of luck, but Alonso is hoping to score decent points.

Williams
Felipe Massa, 1m 56.147s, P6
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 56.282s, P7

Williams got both cars through to Q3 and placed them on the third and fourth rows, despite the sort of weather that has hitherto hampered the FW36. That’s a sign of how they have improved the car since the first races, and bodes well for their performance in a wet race. Perhaps that elusive podium is closer than it looks…

Sahara Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 56.366s, P8
Sergio Perez, 1m 58.264s, P16

Force India had a very mixed day. Hulkenberg got the best out of his VJM07 to take eighth, beaten late on as Massa jumped up to sixth, but Perez was unhappy. He struggled with his car’s balance on both Friday and Saturday, and reckoned that the weather exacerbated his problems.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 56.773s, P9
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 57.289s, P13

Vergne had the upper hand over Kvyat for a change when qualifying was done, and celebrated by bumping Grosjean down to 10th with his final lap. The Frenchman was stoked with his lap, and the way he’d been able to put it together and to push hard. The Russian, however, said he’d pushed as hard as he could but that 1m 57.289s was the best he could get out of his STR9.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 57.079s, P10
Pastor Maldonado, Did not qualify, P22

At last, some real progress for Lotus - even though the wet conditions may have helped. Grosjean got through to Q3 and for a while was sitting in P8 before getting bumped right at the end. And the Frenchman said that the car had lost a little of the performance that he had been able to exploit in FP3 when he had been third. Maldonado, meanwhile, had been told to shut off his engine in FP3, and missed qualifying altogether while the unit was changed. He faced a five-place grid drop after his indiscretion in Bahrain anyway, and will start 22nd.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 56.963s, P12
Kevin Magnussen, 1m 57.675s, P15

McLaren had a disappointing afternoon, with neither MP4-29 able to generate sufficient temperature in their intermediates in Q2. Faced with limited grip, the sixth and eighth rows were therefore all the team could manage.

Sauber
Adrian Sutil, 1m 57.393s, P14
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 58.988s, P17

Sutil said that he was satisfied with what he got from his C33 in Q2, but Gutierrez was hampered in Q1 by a sudden malfunction in his brake-by-wire system, and compounded that with a costly mistake in the last corner which prevented him from making Q2.

Caterham
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 59.260s, P18
Marcus Ericsson, 2m 00.646s, P20

Kobayashi pushed as hard as he could in Q1 when the track was just switching from suiting extreme wets to suiting the intermediates he had braved. Ericsson had problems with the power unit and an overheating front brake in FP3, and struggled with brake locking and a car that was a real handful in Q1.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi, 1m 59.326s, P19
Max Chilton, 2m 00.865s, P21

Bianchi struggled with his MR03 in FP3, but was heading for a decent lap when he slid wide in the final corner and lost much of his advantage. That left him behind Kobayashi’s Caterham. Chilton was happier with his car in FP3, but said the balance went away in Q1.

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