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Qualifying analysis - Red Bull ready for race charge

20 Sep 2014

The fact that half a second covered the first nine cars on the grid showed just how close things were in qualifying at Marina Bay, even though it’s the track with the most corners and places a heavy premium on downforce and engine power.

Mercedes may have locked out the front row, but rivals Red Bull were much closer than anyone had predicted and Ferrari too showed unexpectedly strong pace. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday’s Singapore formbook…

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 45.681s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 45.688s, P2

Mercedes played a canny game with tyre conservation until it really mattered in Q3, but there’s no doubt that the speed of Red Bull and Ferrari came as a huge surprise to the team. Rosberg struggled with a change of brakes after FP3 and admitted that it took him a while to adjust himself to the different characteristics. He went down the escape road in Turn 7 in Q1 as a result, but got steadily faster until he thought he’d taken pole on his final run in Q3. Hamilton, however, made a spectacular recovery from running wide in Turn 1 on his final go, and managed the snatch his sixth pole of the season by seven thousandths of a second. Neither driver expects any real dramas tomorrow when they won’t have the benefit of their engineers’ advice over the radio, but both are expecting it to be a very tough race in terms of tyre management and the speed of their immediate opposition.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 45.854s, P3

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 45.902s, P4

Red Bull came to Singapore hoping to be within three-tenths of a second off the Mercedes, and instead found they were closer than that. Ricciardo got a great lap to take third, but Vettel said he’d pushed a bit too hard and that that might have cost him a shot at pole. They go into the race imbued with optimism that they can take the fight to the Silver Arrows.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, 1m 45.907s, P5

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 46.170s, P7

Ferrari’s performance all weekend has frankly been amazing, and was their most competitive of the season even though not a great deal had changed on the F14 T. Alonso said he’s been comfortable with the car here from the outset, and put that down to the characteristics of the track. Raikkonen looked good too, but suffered a software problem on his final Q3 run which kept him down to seventh place.

Williams

Felipe Massa, 1m 46.000s, P6

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 46.187s, P8

Williams really turned things around as Massa and Bottas made giant strides with the set-up of their FW36s and raced towards the front of the grid once yesterday’s problem had been resolved and the tyres were in their right temperature window. Bottas admitted to a mistake in Turn 1 in Q3, but overall the mood was a lot lighter here and there’s optimism for the race. The target is still to fight for points and stay ahead of Ferrari in the constructors’ stakes.

McLaren

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 46.250s, P9

Jenson Button, 1m 46.943s, P11

Magnussen stressed was that the McLaren just wasn’t quite fast enough and that he had his maxed out en route to ninth on the grid. Button was very unlucky to miss Q3 by 0.017s, and admitted that he lost a lot of time after locking the front wheels and running wide in the hairpin. Now he has to hope that the ability to choose his starting tyre can be turned to advantage in the race.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 47.362s, P10

Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 46.989s, P12

Kvyat believed he got the most out of his STR9 on a day when it was tricky to drive, and getting through to Q3 was a good effort. Vergne has looked strong all weekend, but as conditions changed for qualifying he found that he just couldn’t get the front end working as well as he wanted.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 47.308s, P13

Sergio Perez, 1m 47.575s, P15

Force India were disappointed not to be able to maintain the pace they’d shown yesterday. Hulkenberg pushed hard, but Perez found that the track felt very different and struggled to get the tyres working.

Sauber

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 47.333s, P14

Adrian Sutil, 1m 48.324s, P17

Gutierrez was pleased with his day and got more from his C33 than he’d expected to, but Sutil had ongoing problems with his car’s power unit and energy management which cost him power and speed.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 47.812s, P16

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 49.063s, P18

The Lotus E22 looked a little better today than yesterday, but both drivers ran into problems with the Renault powertrain’s turbo wastegate which cost them full power when they needed it most.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, 1m 49.440s, P19

Max Chilton, 1m 50.473s, P21

Bianchi was justifiably pleased to get a good lap from his MR03 despite a couple of mistakes, but Chilton’s had a problem with its engine mapping on his first run which compromised the second.

Caterham

Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 50.405s, P20

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 52.287s, P22

Caterham improved the CT05 since yesterday, but Ericsson had problems with the electrics and was late getting out in Q1.