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Qualifying analysis - could Williams wreck Rosberg's plans?

08 Nov 2014

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg needs a perfect weekend in Brazil and thus far he’s had it, topping every session, including all three phases of qualifying, albeit by only a fraction from team mate Lewis Hamilton in the final Q3 tussle.

Sunday could, however, see a close race as the Silver Arrows’ aerodynamic advantages over Williams are less effective on a short, smooth track like Interlagos. Much could also depend on the unpredictability of the weather, with drizzle expected at times tomorrow afternoon. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday in Sao Paulo…

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 10.023s, P1

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 10.056s, P2

Rosberg had a slight edge on Hamilton in every practice session and every qualifying session, but in the end the gap between them narrowed to only 0.033s. Now the German has to turn a 10th pole position into victory for only the third time this season, in order to keep himself firmly in championship play. Hamilton can afford to finish second to him here and in Abu Dhabi, but being a racer naturally wants to take win number 11.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 10.247s, P3

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 10.305s, P4

Massa was the hero on his home track and seemed to have Bottas covered all day. The FW36 looked good all through practice and qualifying, though both drivers said they encountered traffic on their second runs which prevented them from making the small improvements that rivals achieved.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 10.930s, P5

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 10.969s, P7

After solving their problem yesterday with poor balance and woeful straight-line speed, McLaren looked much stronger. Button went well all through practice and qualifying, and ended up a solid fifth on the grid. Magnussen couldn’t match him this time, but was not far away in seventh. Neither feels he will be able to stay with the four cars ahead of Button, but they expect to be ab le to fight to stay ahead of Red Bull and Ferrari.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 10.938s, P6

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 11.075s, P9

Vettel’s performance crossed over with Ricciardo’s this afternoon. As the Australian struggled, and admitted he was surprised to make Q3 after losing some performance compared to practice, the German thought his car was getting better as he qualified a useful sixth. It remains to be seen whether the Red Bulls will again have superior race performance to Williams.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 10.977s, P8

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 11.099s, P10

Alonso and Raikkonen were both resigned to the shortcomings of the F14 T package. The Spaniard says he expects that tyre management will be crucial tomorrow, and expects plenty of graining, while the Finn said he was disappointed to be only 10th since he had the front end of his car working much more to his liking and looked like his old self.

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 11.591s, P11

Adrian Sutil, 1m 12.099s, P13

Gutierrez was in Q3 until Ricciardo’s late improvement, and believes he can fight for Sauber’s first points of the season. Sutil was slower after a grassy off at Juncao early in Q2, but struggled with his car’s handling.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 11.976s, P12

Sergio Perez, 1m 12.076s, P17, will start P18

Both drivers concluded that the VJM07 just wasn’t in tune with the track, and struggled for performance. Hulkenberg reckoned 12th was the best they could have expected; Perez rued lack of track time yesterday and his seven-place grid penalty for reckless driving in Austin.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 12.037s, P15

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 12.233s, P18, will start P16

Lotus were disappointed after showing strong form at times in practice. Grosjean said overnight work had improved the behaviour of his E22, while Maldonado said he still felt they can fight for points despite low starting positions.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, No Q2 time, P14, will start P17

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 12.040s, P16

Toro Rosso had a lousy time, after all the promise they’d been showing in practice. Vergne admitted that due to shortage of track time on Friday he never really got his STR9 working the way that he wanted to and failed to get through to Q2. Kvyat did, but with a seven-place grid penalty hanging over him from Austin the team decided there was no point in him running in Q2 so he was classified 14th, and will start 17th.