Rosberg And Mercedes Saunter To Chinese GP Pole

It has been in the minds of many since the start of the season that Mercedes would get their first pole position since their 2010 comeback. At the third event of the season, the earlier promise was shown to it’s full potential. Nico Rosberg’s time of 1:31.121 was set early in Q3 and remained unbeaten for the rest of the ten-minute session.

The German was delighted to record his first pole position in his 111th attempt and said a last-minute setup change to the car before the pole position shoot-out had paid off:

“It went really well and it’s a very special feeling,” Rosberg said. “Now obviously l am looking forward to starting first and the race!”

“The track was was cooling off, the temperatures were coming down, so the rear tyres started working better. We changed setup before the last run and I did a perfect lap.”

Despite his happiness, he was keen to emphasis that Mercedes’ fading performance in races this season means there is still much work to be done in order to top a first pole with a first race victory:

“It is clear in the race we have not been as quick as in qualifying, but we are making progress, we will try our best and work tonight and see what we can do with setup electronically and then make the most of it,” he said.

“It is a great feeling, getting a good lap in at the end and it shows as a team we are moving forward. In the race we are not there yet but we are getting there, we won’t make big jumps in a couple of weeks, it will take some time, but we are getting there.

“It’s difficult to know how well we will go tomorrow, so let’s wait and see.”

Schumacher embraces his former boss at Ferrari now FIA head figure Jean Todt following his qualifying performance

Team-mate Michael Schumacher set the third-quickest time of the session but will start from 2nd position on the grid due to Lewis Hamilton’s five-place grid drop for changing his gearbox. The 91-time race winner declared that the third incarnation that Mercedes has produced since 2010 handles better at the Shanghai circuit than its predecessors and that he feels happier due to an easier car:

If you don’t have a balanced car it [Shanghai] is a nightmare and probably this Silver Arrow is the first car that handles very good here,” he said.

“So I have started to like the track a little bit more this year compared to the previous years.”

He also stated that he is deriving increased satisfaction due to Mercedes ability to fight closer to the front in 2012 than in previous seasons:

It is natural when you are in difficulties you know what it needs to get out of that,” he said.

“It needs patience and focus. That is what we all had and now we take the fruits from all the work and effort we put in. Naturally you are more happy at the front end, where we are right now.”

The two Germans had a chuckle in the post-race press conference when Schumacher realised Hamilton would start the race from five places lower from which he qualified, with Schumacher cheekily remarking “Sorry Lewis!”.

The Japanese driver starts from a season-best grid spot of 3rd

Kamui Kobayashi had his best qualifying performance so far and ensured his Sauber will start the race from 3rd position. It is a place from which some would expect to fight for victory, however the Japanese racer insisted on a humble goal of bringing home points:

“I am very happy, the team did a great job,” said Kobayashi. “For quite a while we have kept saying we need to improve our qualifying performance, and I think this was a clear improvement today.

“Apparently I will be starting from third position tomorrow because Lewis Hamilton had to change his gearbox. This grid position obviously means a lot of chances. However, I am not a dreamer and the target remains the same: score as many points as you can.”

The Iceman was disappointed to not be quicker

Kimi Raikkonen did a strong job to start from fourth position for the race, but was still disappointed not to be closer to the front-starting laptime, seven tenths slower than star man Rosberg.

“It was not too bad, but I am a bit disappointed with the gap to the front and I think we were stronger in the last race than we were here,” said Raikkonen.

“The grid position is okay but when you look at the times, I’m disappointed with the pace of the car today. The rest have improved and we have not.”

Vettel's car ran a different exhaust configuration to Webber's

Sebastian Vettel’s departure from qualifying in Q2 was one of the main stories as the German, who will start the race in 11th, said he had no regrets in running with a different exhaust-layout to that of his team-mate Mark Webber.

“It’s always easy to say this and that now, but I was happy with the car yesterday and that’s why I decided to stay as we were,” said Vettel.

“I was happy with the laps I had in qualifying. There were no mistakes, but they weren’t quick enough. It’s as easy as that.

“Yesterday I was happy with the car. We decided to stick with the current settings and I don’t want to blame it on the car. Three times I did exactly the same lap, and three times it wasn’t quick enough to make it into Q3.”

He remained positive regarding his chances in the race, maintaining that while there is improvements to be made, a lot could happen in a long race:

“Obviously I’m not happy,” he added. “As I said, I was pretty happy with the laps I had in Q2, but they weren’t quick enough. We have to start the race from P11 and see what we can do tomorrow. Surely it makes it a bit harder, but not impossible to do a good race.

“I was pretty happy with the car today, but it was pretty close. Unfortunately we weren’t able to take the final step. There’s a lot of work to do, but there’s a very long race tomorrow, which gives us lot of chances.”

Webber was discreet on his time

Mark Webber was cool when reflecting on his peformance:

“The Q2 lap wasn’t too bad. Q3 didn’t work as well I’d like. It’s quite high maintenance to put it all together. I would have liked to have been at least a row further up. It’s a bit frustrating but hey, it’s competitive. We know we have a good race car. It’ll be interesting to see how the race unfolds.”

Hamilton is the only driver to have won the Chinese GP more than once

Lewis Hamilton starts from seventh position following a five-place grid drop for changing his gearbox, but is sure he can make progress:

“We’re in a good position. We made some good set-up changes. It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to push as hard as I can.”

Button starts ahead of his McLaren team-mate

While Jenson Button is wary of the nearby Kamui Kobayashi:

“It’s not easy starting from where we are, but most of the cars in front are ones that we are quicker than in the race,” said Button. “The one that is unusual is Kobayashi.

“Their [Sauber’s] pace seems very good on long runs. I think he’s going to be pretty tricky tomorrow.”

Alonso is getting used to being away from the sharp end of the action

Ferrari had what one could call, their usual qualifying performance this season, something Fernando Alonso agreed with:

“It was more or less as we thought, it was a tough Q2 and then in Q3 I did the best lap we could which is ninth. On race day the car usually improves but it’s going to be tough. You start in ninth in a normal race and you finish in ninth you get one or two points so you can only improve – I’m ready for a crazy race.”

Massa gets closer but still has yet to out-qualify Alonso this season

Felipe Massa was again in the slower Ferrari, this time by three tenths of a second and was hopeful he could improve during the race:

“I’m disappointed, but I think this morning we were suffering a lot, it was not easy to be in the top 15. Maybe it’s related to the track I don’t know, so on Sunday we’re hoping that improves. I’m 12th, it’s not that bad so hopefully tomorrow that will improve too.”

 

Chinese GP Grid

Pos Driver Team Time Gap 
 1.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m35.121s         
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m35.626s  + 0.505 [+ 5 place penalty]
 3.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m35.691s  + 0.570
 4.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m35.784s  + 0.663
 5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m35.898s  + 0.777
 6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.191s  + 1.070
 7.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.290s  + 1.169
 8.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m36.524s  + 1.403
 9.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m36.622s  + 1.501
10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        No time
11.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m36.031s  + 0.331
12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m36.255s  + 0.555
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m36.283s  + 0.583
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m36.289s  + 0.589
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m36.317s  + 0.617
16.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m36.745s  + 1.045
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m36.956s  + 1.256
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m37.714s  + 1.516
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m38.463s  + 2.265
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m38.677s  + 2.479
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.282s  + 3.084
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.717s  + 3.519
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m40.411s  + 4.213
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m41.000s  + 4.802

 

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