Qualy: Rosberg breaks his pole duck

Saturday 14-April-2012 07:52

Nico Rosberg will start his Chinese Grand Prix from the pole position slot after blitzing the field by half a second in Shanghai.

It took Rosberg 110 starts to get there, however, he won't be counting that number. In a perfect lap to start Q3, Rosberg clocked a 1:35.121 to edge Lewis Hamilton by a massive 0.505s.

With Hamilton incurring a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change it will be an all-Mercedes front row as Michael Schumacher moves up from third to second.

Kamui Kobayashi was fourth quickest on Saturday and will therefore move up to P3 on the second row alongsideKimi Raikkonen.

Jenson Button is up to fifth and will start with Mark Webber alongside him. Hamilton is down to P7. The big surprise of qualifying was Sebastian Vettel failing to make Q3.

Qualifying 1
There was hazy sunshine over The Shang circuit as qualifying hour started with an ambient temperature of 21C and the track at 26C.

Paul DiResta set the first P1 at 1:38.190 for Force India, which was reduced to 1:37.964 by Felipe Massa, 1:37.945 by Nico Hulkenberg, 1:37.521 by Romain Grosjean and then 1:37.165 by Jenson Button.

However it was McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton who took the times into the 1:36s with a 1:36.763. Hamilton was faced with a five-place grid penalty for a changed gearbox after Malaysia so would automatically drop to the third row or lower.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber had gone down two different development toutes with the exhaust positions on their car and it was Webber's version of the RB8 that looked quickest, Mark reducing P1 to 1:36.682.

All the teams had set their initial times with the harder Prime tyre, but Felipe Massa knew from an early stage that he would have to run soft having ended the first round of times in P16. So with eight minutes of the session left he was already out on track on the soft Option tyre and using it to good effect putting his car ahead of Webber's in P1 with a 1:36.556.

Romain Grosjean did the same in his Lotus with a 1:36.343, while Paul Di Resta set the P3 time behind Grosjean and Massa. Fernando Alonso wasn't taking any risks either and set off on a set of primes to take P1 down to 1:36.292. he was followed over the line by his now-familiar shadow, Sergio Perez, with an even better 1:36.198

Running into the last four minutes it was the new teams in the bottom six, but above that the order it was: 15.Senna, 16.Hulkenberg, 17.Ricciardo, 18.Vergne. The Torro Rossos looked firmly the slowest of the bunch and so it proved, Vergne failing to get ahead of his team-mate Ricciardo and Ricciardo failing to get in front of anyone else.

Ominously Sebastian Vettel's time fell right down the order and he finished the session in a lowly P.15.

So out went: 18.Vergne, 19.Kovalainen, 20.Petrov, 21.Glock, 22.Pic, 23.De la Rosa, 24.Karthikeyan (all inside 107%)

Qualifying 2
Kamui Kobayashi was in a mood to show that Sauber had two frontlines drivers, not just a brilliant Mexican and set the first P1 time at 1:35.962, this was only just surpassed by Kimi Raikkonen who put in a 1:35.921 and not thoroughly shamed by Nico Rosberg who reduce P1 to 1:35.725 - with Michael Schumacher slotting into P2.

Schumacher had never started the Chinese GP higher than 6th and today definitely looked like the day he would improve.

After the first runs there were some unusual positions with Hamilton P3, Vettel P6, Button P7 and Webber P9. So the danger positions with four minutes to go were: 7.Button, 8.Perez, 9.Webber, 10.Alonso, 11.Maldonado, 12.Hulkenberg, 13.Ricciardo, 14.Senna, 15.DiResta, 16.Massa, 17.Grosjean (who'd wandered off track on his first run but not found gravel)

Vettel put in another lap and went faster but stayed P6, Webber moved up to a less-than-convincing P8, Fernando Alonso jumped to P6, Massa moved to P10, Paul DiResta could only manage P11, and then Sergio Perez set things alight by putting his Sauber in P3.

This meant that Button had now been pushed down to P9 with Mark Webber in a perilous P10 - and all this with Romain Grosjean at last achieving the true pace of his Lotus (Raikkonen was safe and sound in the top 10).

Webber then showed why his car is the best version of the RB8 by taking P1 with a 1:35.700, Button improved to P8. Grosjean came across the line in P7 pushing Alonso to P10, but worse Vettel into P11 and out of Q3. Incredibly at the end of the session, the top 11 cars were covered by just 0.3 of a second

So out went: 11.Vettel, 12.Massa, 13.Maldonado, 14.Senna, 15.DiResta, 16.Hulkenberg, 17.Riciardo.

It had been a poor qualifying from Vettel but even though Felipe Massa hadn't made Q3, he was just 0.3 behind team-mate Alonso.

Qualifying 3
The temperature started to drop at the beginning of Q3. Kimi Raikkonen was out first and set provisional pole at 1:35.898. He was followed home by Nico Rosberg who set a blistering pace. Considering the top 11 in Q2 had been covered by 0.3 of a second, Rosberg suddenly went 0.6 quicker than he'd gone in the session before, hooking up the most perfect lap.

It looked like pole already, and so it proved. Lewis Hamilton could manage only a distant P2 on scrubbed Options and Michael Schumacher (staggered by Rosberg's lap) a distant P3. Only Rosberg, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Schumacher went out for an initial run while the remaining six waited for the track to clear. As it was the temperature went down and the track got slower.

Webber (much slower than his Q2 time) came home in P5, that was bettered first by Button and then by Kamui Kobayashi who put his Sauber C31 up to P4.

When the initial runners came out for a second time, they could go no quicker and so confident was Rosberg that he wasn't going to improve that with two minutes of the session left he was already striding down the pitlane to be weighed.

So Nico Rosberg clinched his first ever pole position in the FIA inspection garage while the rest of the session petered out in anti-climax. Hamilton knew that he was never going to get near Rosberg's time and aborted his final lap, Schumacher knew he wasn't going to beat it and didn't have to beat Hamilton as the Brit had a five-place gearbox penalty.

Hamilton's removal from 2nd to 7th puts him right behind Jenson Button on the grid and makes it an all-Mercedes front-row - their first silver arrow pole since the Italian GP in 1955.

What's more it elevates Kamui Kobayashi to P3 alongside Kimi Raikkonen in P4. With Mercedes yet to beat its tyre degradation problems in the race, the Sauber and the Lotus might inherit the front two places if they just hang around on Sunday. Also, with the race pace of the Red Bulls and the Ferrari liable to move them up the order it is going to be a fascinating Chinese GP to behold.


01 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.121
02 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:35.626 0.505
03 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:35.691 0.570
04 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:35.784 0.663
05 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:35.898 0.777
06 Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.191 1.070
07 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:36.290 1.169
08 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:36.524 1.403
09 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.622 1.501
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus No time
11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:36.031 0.33
12 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.255 0.555
13 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:36.283 0.583
14 Bruno Senna Williams 1:36.289 0.589
15 Paul di Resta Force India 1:36.317 0.617
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:36.745 1.045
17 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:36.956 1.256
18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:37.714 1.422
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:38.463 2.171
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:38.677 2.385
21 Timo Glock Marussia 1:39.282 2.990
22 Charles Pic Marussia 1:39.717 3.425
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:40.411 4.119
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:41.000 4.708

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Saturday's gallery from Shanghai

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