Nico Rosberg secured pole position in qualifying for the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, in an action packed session right to the end, as the 2015 format returned this weekend.
The German driver prevailed to take top the times by half a second, with a lap time of 1m35.402s. That effort should see Rosberg take the advantage for Sunday, after a shrewd move to complete Q2 on the soft tyre will allow the Mercedes man to start the race on the yellow walled rubber.
After threatening to catch Mercedes early in the session, Scuderia Ferrari’s challenge ended more than half a second shy of not only Rosberg’s pace but that of Daniel Ricciardo too, the Australian putting in a massive late lap in the Red Bull to move him up to second, just three tenths behind the Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel, who had gambled on completing just one single lap in Q3 in a bid to save tyres, had to settle for fourth position after going in way too deep at the hairpin on his sole lap, leaving him short of the pole time by some margin. Kimi Raikkonen, almost mirroring his Ferrari team-mate at the hairpin, could only do enough to secure the third slot on the grid, behind Ricciardo’s Red Bull, denying the Finn the chance to take pole position for the first time since the 2008 French Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas, who was first out on track for the final busy of laps in Q3, secured fifth place for the Williams Martini Racing team, ahead of Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull who was down in sixth after running wide in the final turn.
Sergio Perez finished seventh place in the leading Sahara Force India, ahead of Toro Rosso duo Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten, but was unable to run after he lost the front left wheel of his VJM09 during Q2. The incident resulted in the final part of Q2 ending prematurely under the red flag, which frustrated a number of drivers who had just headed out to complete their final runs.
Felipe Massa, who had just started his final flying lap at the point of the red flag was particularly aggrieved, as was Fernando Alonso in the McLaren, who clearly felt he had more to give in the MP4-31, but was denied the opportunity. Hulkenberg will now be investigated after the session for an unsafe release, and so could therefore incur a penalty for the race.
There was drama from the off for Lewis Hamilton, who did not even make it through Q1. The Brit was unable to set any competitive time following problems with the ERS on his Mercedes, causing the engine to be down on power. During the first three minutes of Q1, Hamilton, who had been first out of the blocks as the lights went green, reported over team radio that he was not happy with the power output he was getting from the W07.
A red flag caused by the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein gave the team a bit more time to work on the current World champions car, but after looking like he was heading out to finally complete a lap with five minutes of the session remaining, he returned to the pits. As the time ticked by it looked more and more inevitable that Hamilton would not be getting back out on track and sure enough, the headrest was removed from his car and the Brit climbed out, resigned to the fact that he would now be starting from the back of the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Wehrlein, who has impressed so far this season, suffered a scare within the first five minutes of Q1, hitting a bump on the straight with his DRS fully open, combined with the water on track caused the front of the Manor to slide away from him, before slamming into the crash barriers.
The German and his team-mate Rio Haryanto, braved the super soft tyres for the first segment of Qualifying, whilst all other drivers had opted to go with the intermediates. That incident brought out an early red flag, causing a long delay as a road sweeper was brought out, in an attempt to clean and dry the track.
Twenty five minutes passed before the Q1 session finally got back underway, with 14 minutes remaining on the clock, and plenty of anxious drivers waiting to get back out on track.
The Renault‘s of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer made an early exit to the session, going out in Q1 along with the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez and the remaining Manor of Haryanto.
Following the early end to the Q2 session, the Williams of Massa was caught out before being able to set his quickest lap time, which will see the Brazilian start from P11 tomorrow, and be the first of the drivers to have a choice of tyres to start the race on. The McLaren’s of Alonso and Jenson Button were next in line, with the Haas of Romain Grosjean and the two Sauber‘s of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr next for the drop.
The back row of the grid will be formed by the Manor of Wehrlein following his Q1 incident, and the Mercedes of current World champion Hamilton, who apart from being unable to set a timed lap, also receives a five place grid penalty for a change of gearbox this weekend. That leaves the Brit with it all to do on Sunday, and should make for an interesting race at the Shanghai International Circuit.
2016 Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying Results
|1||6||Nico Rosberg ROS||Mercedes||1:37.669||1:36.240||1:35.402||16|
|2||3||Daniel Ricciardo RIC||Red Bull Racing||1:37.672||1:36.815||1:35.917||13|
|3||7||Kimi Räikkönen RAI||Ferrari||1:37.347||1:36.118||1:35.972||13|
|4||5||Sebastian Vettel VET||Ferrari||1:37.001||1:36.183||1:36.246||10|
|5||77||Valtteri Bottas BOT||Williams||1:37.537||1:36.831||1:36.296||13|
|6||26||Daniil Kvyat KVY||Red Bull Racing||1:37.719||1:36.948||1:36.399||14|
|7||11||Sergio Perez PER||Force India||1:38.096||1:37.149||1:36.865||15|
|8||55||Carlos Sainz SAI||Toro Rosso||1:37.656||1:37.204||1:36.881||15|
|9||33||Max Verstappen VES||Toro Rosso||1:38.181||1:37.265||1:37.194||15|
|10||27||Nico Hulkenberg HUL||Force India||1:38.165||1:37.333||10|
|11||19||Felipe Massa MAS||Williams||1:38.016||1:37.347||9|
|12||14||Fernando Alonso ALO||McLaren||1:38.451||1:38.826||11|
|13||22||Jenson Button BUT||McLaren||1:37.593||1:39.093||11|
|14||8||Romain Grosjean GRO||Haas||1:38.425||1:39.830||13|
|15||9||Marcus Ericsson ERI||Sauber||1:38.321||1:40.742||11|
|16||12||Felipe Nasr NAS||Sauber||1:38.654||1:42.430||11|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen MAG||Renault||1:38.673||9|
|18||21||Esteban Gutierrez GUT||Haas||1:38.770||9|
|19||30||Jolyon Palmer PAL||Renault||1:39.528||9|
|20||88||Rio Haryanto HAR||Manor||1:40.264||9|
|21||94||Pascal Wehrlein WEH||Manor||No Time||2|
|22||44||Lewis Hamilton HAM||Mercedes||No Time||3|