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Qualifying analysis - Rosberg left to rue missed opportunity

11 Apr 2015

Weather conditions were perfect for both FP3 and qualifying in Shanghai on Saturday, though the track temperature declined from 43 degrees Celsius in the former to 38 in the latter. This time, in polesitter Lewis Hamilton’s case as an example, the difference between the two tyre compounds, Pirelli’s mediums and softs, was about 2.5s. Will Hamilton convert pole to victory? We take a team-by-team look at the formbook in China…

Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 35.782s, P1
Nico Rosberg, 1m 35.824s, P2

For whatever reasons, Hamilton and Rosberg appear to be ignoring one another again, and when Hamilton failed to improve on his second run and Rosberg did, the German was gutted to learn he had missed pole by just 0.042s. It was Hamilton’s 41st such success and his third in 2015, but it was also Rosberg’s most convincing performance of the season thus far.

On sheer speed the Mercedes still had an edge over the Ferraris here, but the team are aware that Ferrari looked good on their race runs yesterday and are expecting a tough race not only in terms of tyre management on a track that really works the left front, but also of pressure from the red cars. Both drivers, however, saved a set of soft tyres, and believe this will help them to resist if Ferrari’s raceday speed matches what they had in Sepang.

Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 36.687s, P3
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 37.232s, P6

Ferrari were unable to carry the fight to Mercedes in qualifying. Vettel said that things looked good in Q1, better still in Q2, then reverted to what they’d seen already in FP3 in Q3 - which meant that the silver cars had a decent edge on sheer peed. However, he has harvested a new set of soft tyres, and is looking forward to being a little closer and racing them tomorrow afternoon.

Raikkonen admitted that for reasons as yet undetermined he struggled on the first three corners on his second lap in Q3, and that ruined the time and left him only sixth when he ought to have been fourth.

Williams
Felipe Massa, 1m 36.954s, P4
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 37.143s, P5

Williams said that their return to competitiveness in qualifying was down to making better use of their tyres than they had in Sepang, where they had let them run too hot and overheated them. Massa, running without the new front wing after a rear-wing stall yesterday led to it being damaged against the wall in Turn 14, jumped to P3 late in Q3, before being pushed down a place by Vettel. Bottas reckoned they went a little too high on his rear tyre pressures, which led to oversteer which sapped a couple of tenths from his time. But he was there in fifth, ahead of Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Both believe they can also be more competitive in the race, so perhaps Ferrari will have to watch their mirrors while chasing the Mercedes.

Red Bull

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 37.540s, P7
Daniil Kvyat, 1m 38.209s, P12

Red Bull looked good in FP3, but lost ground to the resurgent Williams in qualifying. Ricciardo made it through to Q3, but Kvyat was unlucky and missed the cut by a tenth.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean, 1m 37.905s, P8
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 38.134s, P11

Lotus continue to make progress. Grosjean felt he got the best from his E23 Hybrid and said he was happy with its balance. Maldonado, by contrast, said he had too much oversteer, and that made the difference as he missed Q3 by seven-thousandths of a second.

Sauber
Felipe Nasr, 1m 38.067s, P9
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 38.158s, P10

Sauber were back in the groove with both cars after Nasr’s diff and brake problems in Malaysia. But the Brazilian still had a disadvantage; one of his front wing flaps broke, losing him downforce and an estimated two-tenths of a second, which might have placed him ahead of Grosjean. Ericsson said he had a positive day, without any trouble, and he’ll be seeking to redeem himself after his race-affecting spin in Sepang.

Toro Rosso
Max Verstappen, 1m 38.393s, P13
Carlos Sainz, 1m 38.538s, P14

Qualifying was a big disappointment for the Faenza team, which had starred in the previous two races and looked good in FP1. Both drivers agreed that they had made a decent improvement on set-up overnight, but neither got the lap they needed to squeeze into Q3; Verstappen admitted to a lock-up going into Turn 6, but Sainz wasn’t sure where his missing three-tenths went.

Force India
Sergio Perez, 1m 39.290s, P15
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 39.216s, P16

There were no real problems for either driver, but the cars just weren’t quick enough to fight for better than the eighth row.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 39.276s, P17
Fernando Alonso, 1m 39.280s, P18

McLaren’s bubble of Friday promise well and truly burst today, thought to be fair Button had never bought into the possibility of a Q3 run. Trouble began early when Alonso’s car stopped on its out lap in FP3 because of ignition problems. Button only found seven-tenths of a second in Q1 between the prime and option tyres whereas pretty much all of the other teams made bigger gains, and though the balance of the car was good the times just weren’t there and he lost out on Q2 by more than two-tenths. Alonso was right on his tail in his repaired car, and now the focus will switch to making sure both cars finish.

Marussia
Will Stevens, 1m 42.091s, P19
Roberto Merhi, 1m 42.842s, P20

Three races into their rebirth, Marussia got both cars running and qualified them easily within the 1m 44.327s 107 percent time. Stevens was delighted to have three trouble-free sessions after his problems in Malaysia, while Merhi had an electronics issue in FP3 which lost him track time and his run on the soft tyres, and felt that compromised his qualifying slightly.