Nico Rosberg took his first ever Formula 1 pole position today in Shanghai amazing lap that stunned on-lookers and impressed the other drivers.
Neither Lewis Hamilton nor Michael Schumacher – his closest competitors today – could compete with Rosberg’s lap time, and qualified only second and third.
Hamilton has a five-place grid penalty for changing a gear box that will drop him down to seventh on the grid, which will promote Schumacher up onto the front row with his Mercedes team-mate.
Although it was an excellent afternoon for Rosberg, another German did not fare so well. Sebastian Vettel not only failed to make it four pole positions in a row in China, he failed even to make it through into Q3 for the first time since the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Kamui Kobayashi qualified in fourth for Sauber, Kimi Raikkonen was fifth, Jenson Button sixth, and Mark Webber seventh. These drivers will all move up a place when Hamilton's penalty is applied.
Sergio Perez, who was fastest in Q1 (albeit by using a set of the Pirelli soft tyres when others were sticking to the harder compound), rounded off a good session for Sauber by qualifying eighth. Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean were ninth and tenth.
Rosberg's fantastic lap – a 1:35.121 – came early in Q3. Schumacher and Hamilton's first attempts were half a second slower than this lap, demonstrating just how quick Rosberg had been.
Other than these drivers and Kimi Raikkonen, nobody else had soft tyres to spare for two runs in Q3. This meant just one flying lap for the other six runners, but they failed to challenge even the top three.
Rosberg was so confident in his lap that he did not bother to go back out on track and defend his time. This decision was fully justified when Hamilton and Schumacher left the garage again but abandoned their laps.
Mercedes also set the early pace in Q2, and Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher could sit pretty in the pits after putting in laps of 1:35.725 and 1:35.729 respectively.
Lewis Hamilton was only a couple of tenths off this duo, but others like Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Mark Webber struggled to breach the 1:36.000 barrier – Button, Webber and Alonso managed to do it in the closing stages of Q2, but Vettel failed and will start from P11 tomorrow.
The world champion will at least get to choose which tyres he starts the race on tomorrow, and saved himself a set of tyres by not participating in Q3.
Felipe Massa also failed to make it into Q3, and will start alongside Vettel on race day. The two Williams drivers, led by Pastor Maldonado, occupy the seventh row of the Shanghai grid after today's session, but the Venezuelan is under investigation for impeding Heikki Kovalainen during Q1, and may yet get a penalty.
The two Force India drivers, led by Paul di Resta, qualified on the eighth row of the grid and Daniel Ricciardo, who actually set a slower time in Q2 than he did in Q1, was slowest in the second part of qualifying.
Jean-Eric Vergne dropped out of qualifying at the end of Q1 for the second consecutive race, and will start from eighteenth. Starting here will probably not bother the Frenchman too much – he finished eighth after starting from that position in Malaysia – but the fact that he was eight tenths of a second slower than team-mate Ricciardo will be less welcome.
Heikki Kovalainen out-qualified Caterham team-mate Vitaly Petrov in nineteenth, Timo Glock leads an all-Marussia eleventh row, and HRT make up the back row with Pedro de la Rosa getting the better of Narain Karthikeyan.
2012 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix: Provisional Qualifying Result
|7||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:36.290||14|
|10||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||No Q3 Time||15|
|11||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:36.031||11|
|15||11||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:36.317||14|
|16||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:36.745||14|
|17||16||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:36.956||14|
|18||17||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:37.714||8|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT||1:40.411||7|
|Q1 107% Time||1:42.931|
*Hamilton will drop to seventh place once a five-place grid penalty is applied.