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Qualifying analysis - Mercedes leave rivals in their wake

14 Nov 2015

There was not a sign of rain all through qualifying in Brazil, which enabled everyone to run their dry-road tyre programmes without complication in both FP3 and the three grid-deciding sessions, though changing track conditions kept them all on their toes. The soft tyre was worth about 1.2s over the medium, but drivers reported that the former lost their edge after three laps. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg took his fifth consecutive pole position, leading home team mate Lewis Hamilton. We take a team-by-team look at Saturday's running at Interlagos...


Nico Rosberg, 1m 11.282, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 11.360s, P2

After the glitch in FP3 that saw Hamilton momentarily stopped on the track resetting his gear selection, both Mercedes ran reliably in qualifying. Hamilton led Rosberg in Q1 and Q2, but after playing catch-up the German eased ahead in Q3 and took his sixth pole of the year and the fifth in succession. Hamilton said that he hadn’t lost his own pole rhythm, pointed out that he’d had more in 2015 as well as winning the world championship, and said that you just can’t get everything right all the time. He also admitted that he just hadn’t been able to find that extra edge in Q3. Whatever, the two Mercedes should be in for a nip and tuck race.


Sebastian Vettel, 1m 11.804s, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 12.144s, P5, will start P4

Vettel entertained higher hopes than third place after splitting the Mercedes in Q2, but said that once he realised Rosberg had made mistakes on his best lap then he knew there wasn’t a chance. But he still thinks he might be able to keep the pressure on the silver cars in the race. Raikkonen looked good in the morning, but couldn’t get close to his team mate in Q3 after getting sideways in Turn 11 on his best lap.


Valtteri Bottas, 1m 12.085s, P4, will start P7
Felipe Massa, 1m 12.415s, P8

Bottas said he was happier with his car as the track rubbered in and was delighted to qualify ahead of Raikkonen. Unfortunately, he drops from fourth to seventh because of his penalty for overtaking under red flags in FP3, but says he can still do good things from there in the long race. Massa, by contrast, continued to struggle with his car’s grip in sector two and lost time with traffic in Q2 and Q3.

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 12.322s, P7, will start P6
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 12.417s, P9, will start P19

Kvyat was flying after his strong race in Mexico, and said this was his best qualifying of the year. Ricciardo said he felt he was losing a tenth or so and will in any case start from 19th after his engine change, but at least he’ll debut Renault’s latest specification powertrain so that the team can learn more about its characteristics.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 12.265s, P6, will start P5
Sergio Perez, 1m 13.147s, P13, will start P11

Hulkenberg said that overnight changes had enabled him to be very happy with his VJM08 on a track he loves, and the result was a fighting sixth place which will become fifth with Bottas’s penalty. Perez, however, said he hadn’t been comfortable with his car’s handling all weekend, and admitted that he locked up going into the first corner on his last run.

Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen, 1m 12.739s, P10
Carlos Sainz, 1m 13.045s, P12, will start P10

Verstappen said he was delighted to get into Q3 and to qualify 10th as he had not been expecting to, but Sainz had issues with the clutch and steering wheel telemetry on his STR10. He will jump to tenth on the grid due to Nasr's and Riccardo's penalties. 


Felipe Nasr, 1m 12.989s, P11, will start P13
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 13.233s, P14, will start P12

Nasr did a strong job to qualify 11th, just missing Q3 by a tenth, but was later dropped three grid places for impeding countryman Massa in Q2. Ericsson said he wasn’t happy with the balance of his C34 and that neither of his laps was ideal.


Romain Grosjean, 1m 13.913s, P15, will start P14
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 13.385s, P16, will start P15

Lotus looked strong in FP3 but disappointment lay in store in qualifying. Maldonado just couldn’t find pace and exited in Q1, while Grosjean spun on his fast lap and was adamant that something malfunctioned on his E23.


Jenson Button, 1m 13.425s, P17, will start P16
Fernando Alonso, No time, P20

Button said his car felt much better in qualifying than it had in FP3, when it had less aero balance, but he’s expecting another tough race even though he says his car is well set-up for it. Deployment of the Honda engine’s energy resources will be the major problem. Alonso will start at the back again after a problem with his Honda engine required the car to be shut down early in Q1.


Alexander Rossi, 1m 16.151s, P18, will start P17
Will Stevens, 1m 16.283s, P19, will start P18

After struggling with an engine sensor problem on Friday morning Stevens was able to push hard today. Rossi, meanwhile, had had a rear ride height measurement problem yesterday and brake bias issues in FP3. Now they were evenly matched, and the American just shaded the Briton by a tenth of a second.