Chinese GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report

World Championship Trio

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton 

 © The Cahier Archive

A trio of world champions filled the top three grid spots for the Chinese Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso qualified in the top three places.

"An incredible feeling, I am just ecstatic," Hamilton said.

This was Hamilton's 27th F1 pole and his first for the Mercedes team.

"We don't have that speed right now," Raikkonen said, comparing his Lotus to Hamilton's Mercedes.

"The car felt competitive since Friday," Alonso said of his Ferrari. "We should be able to fight for the podium."

Qualifying Session 1

The lights at the end of the pit lane turned green to signal that the first of the three qualifying sessions was underway, but there were no drivers waiting to go out.

The track temperature at the start of the session was 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) and the ambient temperature was 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius.)

Five minutes passed and still the track was silent. As usual, everybody was waiting for others to clean the dust off the track, and everybody wanted to conserve as many sets of tires as possible for the race. The drivers were languidly getting ready to go out.

Eight minutes went by before Jules Bianchi ventured out in his Marussia. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was the first of the big guns to hit the track.

Half the field, and all the big names except Rosberg and his teammate Lewis Hamilton, was still in the pits 12 minutes into the session.

Bianchi was the early leader on the timing screens with a lap of 1:39.025, but Rosberg then blasted by to post a 1:35.959.

With six of the 20 minutes of Q1 remaining, most of the drivers were finally on track. Everybody was running the soft tire rather than risking going on the slower medium compound. Hamilton moved to the top of the screens with a 1:35.793.

All the top drivers did only one fast lap in order to conserve tires for the rest of qualifying and the race.

The top six in the session were: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Mark Webber (Red Bull), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull.)

The six drivers knocked out of Q1 were: Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber), Jules Bianchi (Marussia), Max Chilton (Marussia), Charles Pic (Caterham) and Guido van der Garde (Caterham.)

Qualifying Session 2

Vettel was the first out as the 15 minute Q2 session got underway. He was on the softer compound tire. And he set the first time of the session with a 1:36.260. His teammate Webber slotted into second place with a 1:36.679.

With eight minutes to go, Alonso clocked a 1:36.186, pushing Vettel to second, and Massa moved into third with a 1:36.288.

Drama with seven minutes to go as Webber parked his Red Bull out on the track at Turn 14. It was suspected that his car had run out of fuel.

With five minutes remaining, Rosberg went fastest with a time of 1:35.537 and displaced Kimi Raikkonen who had briefly been on top after setting a 1:35.659 in his Lotus. But then Hamilton took over the top spot with a time of 1:35.078.

Romain Grosjean, who had not been out the entire session, steered his Lotus out onto the track with just two minutes to go. He set the eighth fastest time.

Meanwhile, all Webber could do was watch from the sidelines as he went down the order. He would end up 14th.

The top six were: Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen.

The six drivers knocked out of Q2 were: Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil, Mark Webber, Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Qualifying Session 3

And so it was on to the final 10-car shootout in Q3.

Vettel was again the first driver out on the track. And he was the only driver out there. He certainly could not complain about traffic! But instead of setting a time he came back into the pits. Still, even with his "non-time" he would be placed on the grid ahead of any driver who did no laps at all in Q3.

Everybody else was going to make one run at the end of the session. Or perhaps not go out at all so as to save new tires for the race.

Four minutes to go and still nobody else had done a lap.

With two minutes and 30 seconds to go, Raikkonen headed out and everybody soon followed him on to the track.

Raikkonen set the first quick time, but Hamilton beat that to win the pole. Raikkonen qualified second and Alonso third.

Rosberg, Massa, Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), Jenson Button (McLaren), Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg (Sauber) rounded out the top 10.

Vettel, who slid off on his lap, and Button both qualified with the medium tires, sacrificing grid positions in order to have the more durable tire for the first stint in the race.


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