Mercedes AMG Petronas have shown their rivals that they know how to do tight qualifying sessions with their cars finishing one-two with only four-hundredths of a second between them.
Carrying on his clean sweep of every session in this Chinese Grand Prix so far, Mercedes’ world champion driver Lewis Hamilton recorded a 1:35.782 to shut out team mate Nico Rosberg by the slender margin as the German set a 1:35.824.
They were the only drivers to break into the 1:35s in qualifying and with Hamilton taking yet another pole at the Shanghai circuit, he has good feelings going into the race tomorrow: “China continues to be a good place for me; I guess the circuit fits my style more than others and I enjoy driving it. Also, you just have to look at the stands with all the banners to see how amazing the support we have here is every year. The car felt really good today and the guys back at the factories have done a great job since Malaysia to analyse where we could improve and make a step forward. The last race wasn’t the tidiest but this weekend we’ve put it all together with no problems so far, so thank you to everyone for that.”
Nico on the other hand, wasn’t the beaming ray of sunshine that emanated from the other side of the garage, with last year’s title runner up frustrated with his mechanics – letting his annoyance at second place show on a message broadcast by FOM TV.
“I’m frustrated with today’s result because four hundredths of a second is nothing. I had a good lap at the end but, in hindsight, it’s always possible to see where you could have found that little bit extra. But that’s the situation for me now and I’m still confident for tomorrow. I’ve focused on race pace with my set up and I know that tyres will be the decisive factor tomorrow. So I will be aiming to put a lot of pressure on Lewis ahead of me,” Nico said.
However, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff didn’t get drawn into Nico’s complaints and instead reminded the team that the threat of Ferrari is looming large and they need to be careful not to underestimate them.
He added: “That was a brilliantly close qualifying session between our two boys. Nico pulled out a fantastic lap on the final run but Lewis had just done enough with his first set of tyres to take pole by four hundredths of a second.
“It’s a good situation to be in and confirms what we saw yesterday – namely that we have an advantage over Ferrari on one lap. But we also know that the gaps shrink in race conditions and we saw in Malaysia that they could extend their tyre life beyond what we could achieve, so we need to be careful of that tomorrow.
“We have some new factors to consider in our pre-race thinking compared to two weeks ago, so a successful race will be all about finding the right balance between speed and tyre management.”