GP Cina, prove sabato–14/04/2012
Nico Rosberg flies to maiden F1 pole in the Chinese Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg claimed a maiden Formula 1 pole position for himself and the current version of the Mercedes team with a commanding performance in Chinese Grand Prix qualifying at Shanghai.
The German was a full half a second quicker than second-fastest Lewis Hamilton, as predictions of a spectacular Mercedes qualifying performance came true. Michael Schumacher will make it an all-Mercedes front row having qualified third fastest, for Hamilton’s gearbox change penalty will drop his McLaren to seventh.
While one German celebrated a first ever pole, another had a disastrous result, as reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel could only manage 11th on the grid for Red Bull.
Rosberg had led a Mercedes one-two in Q2, and then blitzed his rivals early in Q3 with an unbeatable 1m35.121s. So confident was Rosberg that the time would hold for pole, he got out of his car and walked off to the weighing area while the rest of the top 10 pack tried in vain to improve their times and catch him.
Hamilton managed to get between the Mercedes in the times, even if he cannot do so on the grid.
His penalty will also move Kamui Kobayashi up to an amazing third place, as the Japanese driver emphasised Sauber’s progress by setting the fourth quickest time.
On current form, Vettel had always seemed a long shot for a fourth consecutive Shanghai pole, but to fail to make the top 10 on the grid for the first time since Brazil 2009 was a major shock.
The double champion, running a different exhaust specification on his Red Bull to Mark Webber, was only 0.3s slower than his pacesetting team-mate in Q2, but that was the difference between first and 11th in the extraordinarily close session. Vettel had been gradually edged down the top 10 and ultimately pushed out by Romain Grosjean’s Lotus, and though he was still on his final flying lap at the time, it was not quick enough to get Vettel back inside the cut.
A low-key session for Jenson Button and Webber saw the McLaren and Red Bull back in sixth and seventh in the times, behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus.
Malaysia combatants Sergio Perez (Sauber) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) were together again as they led the way in Q1 after going for softs tyres, and qualified in close company once more in eighth and ninth, ahead of the second Lotus of Romain Grosjean. Felipe Massa was closer to Alonso’s pace than of late, but will start 12th.
The second half of the grid will line up in neat team formation. The two Williams share row seven ahead of the two Force Indias, and while Jean-Eric Vergne did not get beyond Q1, he will still start alongside Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
It was business as usual at the back, as Caterham led Marussia and HRT, with everyone now comfortably inside the 107 per cent margin..
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m35.121s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m35.626s + 0.505
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 Q2 cut-off time: 1m35.831s Gap ** 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 Q1 cut-off time: 1m36.933s Gap * 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
The Final Countdown – Chinese Grand Prix, Free Practice 3 Report
With plenty of work left to do after a disappointing first day at the Shanghai International Circuit, Romain and Kimi departed their respective garages in flying formation moments after the green lights went out to ensure maximum track time before qualifying.
With their install laps and oil dips complete, both drivers returned to the pits for a short break while the team analysed the initial data to ensure everything was in order. 12 minutes into the session, Kimi once again followed Romain out onto the track with both remaining on the white marked medium tyres – a fresh set for Romain, and scrubbed set for Kimi.
A more encouraging start to the day saw both drivers sitting inside the top 10 as they brought the E20s home once more with the midway stage of the session approaching – Romain having completed 7 laps overall and Kimi a total of 6 after the first stint.
The warmer conditions allowed the team to gain a better idea of how the upgrades were affecting performance after an inconclusive day’s work with the new parts on Friday, hence the decision to remain with a similar set-up to yesterday throughout the morning.
Almost exactly halfway through proceedings, the next stints were underway for Kimi and Romain. Both were clearly pushing hard to find the limits of the E20s around the track, with Kimi sending sparks flying from the kerbs on the exit of the final turn, and Romain having a half spin in turn 2 as he explored the boundaries of grip from the Pirelli tyres.
With 12 and 10 laps down overall for Romain and Kimi respectively, the third and final run of the session saw the day’s first appearance from the yellow marked soft compound tyres. This time it was the Finn’s turn to lead the Frenchman out onto the circuit with 10 minutes remaining.
After abandoning his first lap following a slide in the first sector, Kimi promptly put his E20 firmly inside the top 10 with his second attempt, improving by almost 7 tenths of a second. Romain meanwhile continued his learning experience at the track, putting together a solid string of laps at an impressively similar pace to his more experienced team mate.
Practice pit stops and a final oil dip rounded off the morning for the drivers, as Kimi ended the session in P10 with a best time of 1:37.061 from 17 laps, with Romain close behind in P12 after setting a fastest time of 1:37.274 from 19 laps.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m35.940s 13 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m36.093s + 0.123 12 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m36.389s + 0.449 16 4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m36.512s + 0.572 17 5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m36.635s + 0.695 16 6. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m36.765s + 0.825 17 7. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.781s + 0.841 19 8. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.880s + 0.940 17 9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m37.039s + 1.099 15 10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m37.061s + 1.121 17 11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m37.237s + 1.297 16 12. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m37.274s + 1.334 19 13. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m37.288s + 1.348 16 14. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m37.425s + 1.485 14 15. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.465s + 1.525 12 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m37.493s + 1.553 13 17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m37.628s + 1.688 14 18. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m37.831s + 1.891 14 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m38.701s + 2.761 19 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m39.198s + 3.258 19 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m39.796s + 3.856 18 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m40.048s + 4.108 17 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m41.263s + 5.323 14 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m41.499s + 5.559 18